Trump administration asks for more time on H4 work authorization

DHS tells court it needs additional six months.

The Department of Homeland Security, on Monday, has asked the DC Circuit Court for another 180 days to review an Obama-era rule that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to get work authorization.

Until 2014, H4 visa holders — spouses and dependants of H-4 employees — were not allowed to work in the United States. After intense lobbying, the DHS announced that year that it allow certain types of H4 visa holders to work in the country. Beginning 2015, qualified H4 visa holders were issued the Employment Authorization Documents.

But the rule change was challenged in court by an anti-immigrant group called Save Jobs USA, which said the move would expand the labor pool and impact American jobs and wages.

The petition was dismissed by a district judge in May 2015, but the group, which mainly consists of American IT workers, appealed the verdict in the DC Circuit Court.

Earlier, at the beginning of President Trump’s tenure, the DHS had requested the court for 60 days to review the decision.

On April 3, the department sought an additional six months to enable the new administration to finish the review.

The DHS has told the court that it would update the court every 60 days, and if it finishes the review before the 180-day request period, it will inform the court of its decision.

Indian nationals are the biggest beneficiaries of H-1B visa program. Their spouses, a number of whom are highly skilled professionals themselves, had to go through a long ordeal before they were allowed to work. On an average, it takes more than a decade for a skilled worker to pass the green card process as the backlog is dauntingly huge. During the waiting time, the H-1B workers had to sustain their families on sole income. The spouses, on the other hand, were unable to use their skills for a number of years while they waited for the green cards.

“The Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses final rule (H-4), effective on May 26, 2015, seeks to support the goals of attracting and retaining highly skilled foreign workers and minimizing the disruption to U.S. businesses resulting from H-1B nonimmigrants who choose not to remain in the United States and pursue LPR [Legal Permanent Resident] status,” according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

During the campaign, President Trump had criticized the H-1B program and had vowed to end its abuses. A number of prominent administration officials, among them Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Senior Advisor Steve Bannon, are staunch critics of the visa program.

Several bills have been proposed in the last couple of months to curtail the scope of the H-1 visas.

On Monday, when the USCIS began receiving H-1B petitions for the 2018 fiscal year, the administration announced new measures to restrict H-1B abuses.



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