US lawmakers ask Donald Trump administration to reconsider decision to revoke H4 visa permits

Washington: A group of 15 influential lawmakers from California has urged the Trump administration to reconsider its move to revoke an Obama-era rule that gives work permits to spouses of certain categories of H-1B visas, the most sought-after among Indian IT professionals.

 US lawmakers ask Donald Trump administration to reconsider decision to revoke H4 visa permits

Representational image. Reuters

The lawmakers asserted that the existing H-4 rule was a matter of both economic competitiveness and maintaining family unity. "The H-4 rule lessened the burden on thousands of H1-B recipients and their families while they transition from non-immigrants to lawful permanent residents by allowing their families to earn dual incomes. Many entrepreneurs used their EADs to start businesses that now employ United States (US) citizens," they said in a letter to the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M Nielsen.

"Eliminating this benefit removes an important incentive for highly skilled immigrants to remain here to invest in and grow our economy to the benefit of all Americans," the lawmakers said.

The letter came amidst reports that the Trump Administration was planning to approach the court to inform that it has decided to rescind the Obama-era executive order which gave work permits to spouses of certain categories of H-1B visas. The order has not been rescinded yet. The lawmakers did not say if they had received any response from Nielsen.

The lawmakers said that until 2015, the spouses of many highly skilled H-1B visa holders were left out, unable to contribute financially to their family or pursue their own professional goals because they did not have permission to work. "It can take decades for these immigrants and their families to receive green cards and the Department of Homeland Security extended eligibility for employment authorisation to certain H-4 dependent spouses because it recognised the economic hardship facing the families of many H1-B workers who needed dual incomes to survive in high-cost areas," the letter said. "In many areas where these high-tech professionals live, such as Silicon Valley, it is nearly impossible for a family to live on one income," it said.

Since the H-4 rule was implemented three years ago for spouses of highly skilled immigrants, over 1,00,000 workers, mainly women, were finally granted permission to work and contribute to their households and the US' economy, it said. "The H-4 rule is a matter of both economic competitiveness and maintaining family unity. The US has already invested in these workers with years of expertise and we should not be sending them abroad to innovate and use their experience and talents against US businesses," the letter said.

Last week, Indian American congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and congressman Ro Khanna told community leaders that they opposed the decision of the Trump Administration to terminate the Obama-era work permits to spouses of H-1B visa holders. "I oppose the move. I am on a bipartisan Bill that seeks to ensure work permits for spouses. It is also a question of countering domestic violence. Because most of these spouses are women, in the absence of economic independence, they become vulnerable," Khanna said at an event organised by the US India Friendship Council.

"I oppose the move to terminate work permits to H-4 visas. Women who are just as qualified, sometimes more qualified than their spouses but haven't been able to work,"," Jayapal said. With the future of thousands of Indian professional, mostly women, at stake, the Indian Embassy here is believed to have taken up the matter very strongly with the Trump Administration and US lawmakers.

US President Donald Trump had signed an executive order for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop "visa abuses" last year.

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Updated Date: Apr 30, 2018 13:01:29 IST