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Tech industry urges USCIS not to cancel H-4 spouses’ work permits

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Trade groups say reversal of Obama-era H-4 Visa Rule will harm US businesses, economy.

A coalition of business and tech advocacy groups representing giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Google urged the Trump administration to continue the H-4 Visa Rule, which allows spouses of H1-B visa holders to work in the U.S.

In a letter addressed to Lee Francis Cissna, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the groups requested the government to stop its efforts to do away with the rule, arguing that such a move would harm America’s competitiveness and hinder efforts to recruit highly competitive employees from across the world.

“Our organizations write to express our strong support of the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses Rule,” read the letter sent by the groups on Thursday.

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“As the Trump Administration conducts its review of the H-4 rule, we respectfully encourage you and your colleagues to maintain the program given its importance to the business community and to the American economy,” it added.

The rule enacted by the Obama administration in 2015 allows a limited subset of H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B workers employment authorization eligibility when they seek lawful permanent resident status.

In December last year, The Department of Homeland Security had stated that it intended to end the rule as part of President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” policy.

The letter says that most of the women who work under H-4 face uncertainty when the country fails to reform its immigration system.

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“It is a function of the failure to reform our nation’s immigration system that this group of H-4 spouses—the majority of whom are women—continue to face uncertainty and may be prevented from working while they wait for bureaucratic backlogs to be cleared,” noted the letter.

While the US economy requires highly skilled labor in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) sector, the companies find it very difficult to recruit employees from within the country due to short supply.

In 2016, there were approximately 3.3 million STEM job openings posted online. By contrast, in that same year, U.S. universities graduated 568,000 students with STEM degrees. According to the advocacy groups, the immigration policy of the nation should allow companies to find highly skilled employees from foreign countries.

The letter further notes that the rule places the United States on par with foreign competitors, such as Canada and Australia, that allow accompanying spouses to work.

“The H-4 rule has limited unnecessary disruptions to businesses by ameliorating economic and personal hardships—resulting from the lack of spousal work authorization—previously faced by many H-1B employees and their families as they obtain LPR status,” said the groups.

If the rules are changed, it would cause a huge loss of skilled labor as the employees would choose opportunities in other countries that allow their spouse to work, the tech companies argue. The disruptions associated with filling key positions coupled with increased cost would adversely affect business and economy, they say.

“This limited subset of H-4 spouses has a further direct, positive impact on the American economy in that these individuals often have experience and education in vital occupations—from academic researchers to medical technicians and professionals, to the owners of small businesses who help create jobs for Americans,” read the letter.

The coalition includes 10 advocacy groups, such as BSA | The Software Alliance, Compete America, Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), U.S. Chamber of Commerce and TechNet.


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