USCIS chief Cissna informs Sen. Grassley that the administration plans to propose regulatory changes to end H-4 work permit program.
The Trump administration is moving forward with its plan to end an Obama-era program that allowed spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the United States.
In a letter sent to Sen. Chuck Grassley, a critic of the H-1B program, Lee Francis Cissna, the director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, signaled that the agency is going ahead with its plan to end the practice of providing Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) to H4 visa holders and an announcement will come later this summer.
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Whenever that happens, tens of thousands of H-4 spouses — a vast majority of them Indian nationals — will be jobless again. The Obama-era rule allowed spouses of H-1B visa holders that are awaiting Green Card approval to apply for employment authorization.
According to USCIS data, there are currently 100,000 H-4 spouses who are benefiting from the rule.
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“With regards to regulations, our plans include proposing regulatory changes to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation, thereby reversing the 2015 final rule that granted such eligibility,” Cissna wrote in the letter, dated April 4, addressed to Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“We announced this intention earlier this year in the semiannual regulatory agenda of the department of homeland security (DHS),” Cissna added.
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The letter stated that the withdrawal of work authorization falls in line with “the Buy American Hire American Executive” order issued by President Trump, which had directed federal agencies including USCIS to come up with drastic changes to fix what it termed as a flawed immigration system.
As with other revisions to regulations, the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback during a notice and comment period, Cissna said.
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Indian nationals on H4 visas have the most to lose by the move. Some 90 percent of H4 EAD program beneficiaries have been Indian nationals.
Allowing H4 visa holders to work in the United States has been quite controversial. Anti-H-1B groups, such as Save Jobs USA, have challenged the policy in courts.