H-1B Visa
Department of Homeland Security is seeking to remove the permit granted in 2015 that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders who were in the process of obtaining a green card to work.
Image: Megan Eaves via Flickr

In another major blow for H-1B visa holders, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of the US government has said that it will implement a work ban on spouses of H-1B visa holders this month. Spouses of H-1B visa holders hold the H-4 visa. The plan to ban these visa holders from working was first proposed by DHS in late 2017.

“DHS is publishing this notice of proposed rulemaking to amend that 2015 final rule. DHS is proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorization,” the DHS website read. This comes as part of the Spring 2019 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.

From February 25, 2015, spouses of H-1B visa holders who were in the process of obtaining a green card were given work permits. DHS now seeks to remove this from its regulations.

Since 2015, Indians, mostly women, have been the beneficiaries of the H-4 visa program, accounting for over 93% of the one lakh visas issued.  

According to Denver Post, the rule was in its final stages in February when it was sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review. “Under the rule-making process, the budget office can recommend changes, before kicking the proposed rule back to Homeland Security,” the report states.

However, migration analysts say that it is unlikely that the rule will get implemented this summer.

Since Donald Trump became the President of the US, immigration rules have been tightened under what Trump called ‘Buy American and Hire American’, in a bid to boost employment for US citizens. The US currently prefers giving H-1B visas for those who hold master’s degrees from the US itself.

According to government statistics, Indians are the biggest beneficiaries of H-1B visas. 76% of the total visas issued went to professionals from India last year.

However, IT companies, which have been the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B visa, have been suffering setbacks due to the tightened rules.  And not just new visas, extensions have been seeing more rejections as well.

According to the Centre for Immigration Studies (CIS), US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is slowly reducing approval rates on a case-by-case basis in 2019, as compared to 2015.

CIS states that while there are nearly 750,000 H-1B workers in the US, there are usually more H-1B workers on extended visas than on new ones. More questions are now being asked when visa extensions are sought, CIS says. This is usually called requests for evidence (RFEs) and as per the data, approval rates after RFEs have dropped from 95.7% in 2015 to 61.5% in the first three months of this fiscal year.