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June to heighten job worries for H-1B spouses

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MUMBAI: The Trump administration has reiterated its intention to undo the existing policy enabling spouses of H-1B workers to obtain work permits in its recent “spring regulatory agenda”. Over a lakh Indian spouses hold the permit, referred to as employment authorisation documents (EADs).

According to the timeline given in the agenda, a new draft regulation to rescind the existing policy is expected in June. Periodically, the US government issues its policy agenda, outlining the action points for the coming months.

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The draft will be notified in a federal register and a 30-to 60-day window will be open for public comments. The entire process up to issuance of the final rules could take several months. There is every possibility of a legal challenge, which could further delay the new regulation. “As of now, you can continue to file for EADs,” said Emily Neumann, an immigration attorney and partner at Reddy & Neumann, a law firm.

TOI has been closely tracking developments on this front as it impacts a little over a lakh Indian spouses who hold EADs.

David Nachman, managing attorney, NPZ Law Group, added: “Typically, when the government makes a move of this nature, they provide a way to handle ‘pipeline’ cases. There is also guidance about ‘phase-out’. For instance, if an employee has an EAD valid for several months, it’s possible they could continue with their jobs. The draft rules will throw more light on these open-ended issues.”


The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released the latest statistics on Friday of H-4 visa-holders who have been allotted EADs. Since inception in May 2015 till December 2017, Indian spouses held 1.18 lakh EADs, or nearly 94 per cent of the total EADs issued. This includes EADs replaced (on being lost) and also renewals. The aggregate of initial (first-time issue) of EADs is 90,946, of which Indians hold 93 per cent. For the current fiscal 2018, data for October 1 to December 31, 2017 has been made available. During this period, 6,800 EADs were allotted, of which 6,130 (or 90 per cent) were allotted to spouses from India.

The Obama administration had introduced a rule known as H-4 EAD rule in May 2015, largely to help deal with a massive green card backlog for H-1B visa-holders, especially from India and China. It enabled spouses to work, while the H-1B visa-holder waited for a green card. Prior to this rule, spouses of H-1B workers could stay in the US on an H-4 visa but were not allowed to obtain a work permit and take up employment.

H-1B visas are awarded for three years and can be renewed for another three years. After that, workers can apply for permanent legal status. It is only at that point that their spouses can apply for an EAD.

Updated: May 12, 2018 — 9:36 pm

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