Spouses of H-1B Visa holders in tech sector can work in US: Judge

Spouses of H-1B Visa holders

NEW YORK: In an immigration-friendly move, a judge has ruled that spouses of highly-skilled H-1B visa holders in tech sector can now work in the US, thus upholding an Obama-era rule under which partners were issued H-4 visas.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Tuesday dismissed arguments by Save Jobs USA, who claimed that the Congress never granted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authority to allow foreign nationals, like H-4 visa-holders, to work during their stay in the US.

“That contention runs headlong into the text of the (Immigration and Nationality Act), decades of executive-branch practice, and both explicit and implicit congressional ratification of that practice,” Chutkan wrote in her ruling. She further said that the DHS has authorised employment not just for students, but also for their spouses and dependents. The lawsuit was also opposed by big tech firms like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

H4 visas are issued to dependent spouses and children who accompany H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, and H-3 visa holders to the US. The spouses of H-1B visa holders tend to be highly educated, many of them in STEM fields, and previously had careers of their own or worked to support their families. In 2021, Google filed a legal brief with over 40 companies to protect the work authorisation programme that allows the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US.

As part of his anti-immigration policy, former President Donald Trump had proposed to end the issuing of work authorisation (H-4 EAD) for certain spouses of high-skilled talent who came to the US on H-1B visas.

According to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis, 90 per cent of the spouses of H-1B visa holders are female, two-thirds are from India and 6 per cent from China.

“The US can reap significant economic benefits, ease labor shortages, and attract more workers in the global competition for talent if it expanded current rules on work eligibility for the spouses of H-1B visa holders,” the 2022 study by NFAP said.

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