PUNE: US President Joe Biden has permitted dependents of H-1B visa holders to continue working in the country.
The measure had been brought in during the Barack Obama presidency in 2015. The previous Donald Trump administration had proposed to revoke it as part of his anti-immigration policy. The latest move is expected to provide relief to more than 100,000 Indian nationals who had moved to the United States along with their spouses for work.
The rule allows qualified spouses of H-1B visa holders to contribute to the US economy.
Over 90% of the 100,000-odd H-4 EAD holders are Indians, and over 93% of them are women.
Advocacy groups had pointed out that if the work authorisation had been rescinded, it would have led to several thousand people moving back to India.
“There have been multiple attempts over the last four years to rescind or overturn the regulations that grant work authorization or EADs to individuals on H-4 visas,” said Poorvi Chothani, managing partner at immigration law firm LawQuest.
The previous administration had introduced a regulation in 2019 — ‘Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization’ — and that was withdrawn on Tuesday, Chothani said.
Several of the spouses who are in the United States because their husbands are working on an H-1B visa are highly skilled professionals who would have had to give up their careers if this rule had been implemented.
“After four years of needless anxiety for H-4 EAD holders, this is welcome news. The Biden administration is moving fast on reversing or pulling back immigration regulations implemented during the Trump administration. It gives us all hope that maybe we will be able to see the reform needed in the immigration system, even if it is done piecemeal,” said Nandini Nair, partner at law firm Greenspoon Marder.
In the financial year 2020, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services received 67,690 applications for H4-EAD, of which 52,470 were approved and 2,538 were rejected.
This also includes renewals, although country-wise data is not available.
As of March 2019, Indian nationals had filed 110,649 out of 120, 514 applications for employment authorisation.
There are, however, some clouds hanging over the H4-EAD programme.
“There is still the risk of a negative court ruling in the Save Jobs USA case that is pending on this very issue,” Chothani said.
In 2019, a US Court of appeals denied the abolition of the H4-EAD and sent it back to a lower court for further assessment.
“In view of the withdrawal of January 25, 2021 it is very likely that the court case will be decided in favour of the H-4 EADs or there would be a settlement to this effect. However, until the case is decided there is still some risk to the H-4 EAD program,” she said.