Politics

DHS Plans To Scrap Work Permits For Spouses Of H-1B Visa Holders

The Trump administration plans to rescind an Obama-era rule that allows the spouses of foreign tech workers to get jobs in the U.S. as well.

In a notice published Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it would do away with with the so-called H-4 work authorization, which is granted to the spouses of H-1B visa holders. The H-4 program, which was created by the Obama administration in 2015, is currently being challenged in court as an unconstitutional exercise of presidential authority.

DHS did not specify when the change would be made, saying only that “DHS is proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorization.”

The notice went on to explain that the change is being made in light of President Donald Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” order issued earlier this year. The order seeks to evaluate visa programs to ensure that American workers are not disadvantaged by the importation of foreign labor. It specifically directs DHS to review the H-1B visa program for abuse or adverse impacts on the domestic labor force.

When the Obama administration created the H-4 program, it said the regulation would “support the goals of attracting and retaining highly skilled foreign workers.” Critics say the program created another hidden source of foreign labor to compete with American workers.

Save Jobs USA, a group of U.S. citizens who were replaced by H-1B workers at a Southern California utility, filed a lawsuit in April 2015 challenging the H-4 work authorization, arguing that it exceeded DHS’s statutory authority. The case has ended up in U.S. appeals court, but the Trump administration has signaled that it intends to overturn the rule rather than defend it.

More than 41,000 H-4 work authorizations were approved in fiscal year 2016, and about 36,000 were approved in the first nine months of Fiscal Year 2017, reports the Wall Street Journal, citing government figures.

The H-1B program has a congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 visas per year, with an exemption for up to 20,000 additional applicants who have earned a master’s degree or higher.

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