No decision about H-4 visas is final until the rulemaking process is completed, a senior US official has said, days after over 100 lawmakers urged the Trump administration to continue granting work authorisation to certain dependent spouses of non-immigrant workers holding H-1B visas, the most sought-after among Indian IT professionals.
The Trump administration is planning to revoke a rule that makes spouses of thousands of immigrant workers eligible to work while in the US, a move that could have a devastating impact on tens of thousands of Indians.
H-4 is issued to the spouse of H-1B visa holders, a significantly large number of whom are high-skilled professionals from India. They had obtained work permits under a special order issued by the previous Obama administration.
The move to end the Obama-era rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visas holders, who have work permits.
"No decision about H-4 visas is final until the rulemaking process is completed," Philip Smith, a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) spokesperson told PTI.
This comes days after more than 130 influential lawmakers wrote a letter to the US Homeland Security Secretary not to rescind the Obama administration's decision to provide work authorisation to certain categories of H-4 visas, which are mainly spouses of H-1B visas.
All indications so far, including the Spring Agenda, reveal that the Trump administration is planning to end the Obama-era rule allowing spouses of H1-B visa holders to work legally in the US.
Smith said the agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President's Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programmes.
The USCIS is focused on ensuring the integrity of the immigration system and protecting the interests of the US workers, and is committed to reforming employment-based immigration programmes so they benefit the American people to the greatest extent possible, he said.
"USCIS continues reviewing the employment-based visa programmes which includes a new economic analysis. USCIS anticipates any proposed rule would be published in June 2018," Smith told PTI.
He was responding to questions on the letter to the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed by more than 130 lawmakers in this regard.
"The opportunity for H-4 visa holders to work has made our economy stronger, while providing relief and economic support to thousands of spouses, mostly women, who have resided in the United States for years," the letter said.
"Many are on the path to permanent residency and would already be permanent residents if not for the decades-long employment backlogs. Rescinding the rule will hurt the competitiveness of US employers and the US economy, as well as H-4 accompanying spouses and their families. We strongly urge you to reconsider this action," the lawmakers wrote.