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US court seeks status report on visas to family members of H1-B holders


PTI, Feb 9, 2021, 9:40 AM IST

Washington: A US court has asked for a joint status report on the prospects of work authorisation for H4 visas, in view of the decision of the Biden Administration to withdraw the move of Trump-era to rescind work authorisation to certain categories of spouses of foreign professional on H-1B visa.

Judge Tanya S Chutkan has asked for the joint status report by March 5.

An H-4 visa is issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders, most of whom are Indian IT professionals.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

The H-4 visa is normally issued to those who have already started the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status in the US.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has earlier said that the proposed rule titled, ”Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorisation,” was being withdrawn.

The Court has asked for the joint status report by March 5

“In light of recent Executive and Administrative actions, the parties shall meet, confer and file a joint status report by 3/5/21 advising the court: 1) whether the current dispute has been mooted or the parties anticipate that it will be mooted; 2) whether the parties wish to stay this action for any reason, including the parties” negotiations over resolving this dispute; or 3) whether the parties agree that this litigation should continue as anticipated pursuant to the federal rules, local rules or a scheduling order,” the judge said.

The report shall be accompanied by a proposed order as appropriate; wrote Judge Chutkan in the US Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit.

In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a rule allowing certain H4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders to legally seek employment in the US, the letter said. This rule presented an important step towards rectifying gender disparities in our immigration system, as around 95 per cent of H4 visa holders who have secured work authorisations are women.

An H-4 visa is issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders, most of whom are Indian IT professionals.

It is normally issued to those who have already started the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status.

As of December 2017, USCIS had approved 1,26,853 applications for employment authorisation for H-4 visa holders.

According to a 2018 report by Congressional Research Service (CRS) 93 per cent of approved applications for H-4 employment authorisation were issued to individuals born in India, and five per cent were issued to individuals born in China.

The 2015 rule was challenged by Save Jobs USA in a federal court.

During its four years, the Trump Administration had told the court that it plans to rescind the order that gives work authorisation to spouses of H-1B visas. However, it did not rescind the rule.

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