The Potential Impact of Banning Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders

An H-1B visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act allows for non-immigrant workers to be employed in a specialty occupation in the United States. The H-1B visa program was introduced to allow International Professional and International Students the opportunity to live and work in the US. This is a highly sought after visa and only so many petitions are accepted every year, which can make obtaining one difficult. This visa is open to individuals from all over the world and is extremely popular because it allows for “dual intent”, which means that the visa holder is allowed to apply for permanent residency.

Individuals who wish to apply for an H-1B visa are foreigners seeking employment in the United States for a set amount of time. The employment they seek must be a specialty occupation which they have education or specialty training in. Industries that are usually applicable include IT, accounting, banking, advertising, architecture, medicine, engineering, journalism, law, research, sales, teaching, and management, to name a few. The applicant must have a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from their country that is necessary to fill the specialty occupation as outlined by the employer. The employer must prove the position offered to the applicant is a specialty occupation that cannot be filled by just anyone and requires a certain knowledge or skill set. The applicant must prove their background and experience in the specialty area, and their ability to perform the tasks of the job.

Banning H4 Visa Work Permits

Towards the end of the Obama administration, H4 visa holders (H1B workers’ dependent spouses) were allowed to find paid work while they were already waiting on a green card. This is known as the H4EAD policy. Now, in the Trump administration, this has received a lot of backlash and there is talk of banning this program. According to the new US Attorney general Jeff Sessions, the H4 rule to allow work authorization is actually hurting American workers.

Changes have already been made by clamping down on the premium processing of H1B visas and upping the difficulty level for H4 visas. No changes to the H4EAD have been made yet, but it is expected that the Trump administration will try to rescind the Obama-era-rule. Many people are arguing against this, saying that these immigrant families often depend on the second income. Rescinding this rule will affect many women, who without a job, will have to find other ways to occupy their time.

In December 2017 the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to do away with the rule, suggesting that they were following President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order he signed in April 2017. This order has also heavily targeted the H1B visa because as President Trump sees it, it is taking potential jobs away from American workers. As of August 2018, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (who were tasked with overseeing a review of employment-based visas) have yet to reach a decision about the H4 work permit.

The Impact of Banning H4 Work Permits

If the plan to ban spouses of H1B visa holder from working is passed, it could put nearly 100,000 people out of jobs. Some negative effects that could occur if this happens include isolating H4 visa holders socially, raising domestic tensions, straining the family’s financial resources, and potentially having a negative impact on US employers. The effects could be even more detrimental to H4 workers who have bought a home or started their own businesses.

Other Work Visas

With all of this scrutiny on the H-1B and H4 visas, the EB-5 visa has become an increasingly popular alternative. This visa provides a method for eligible Immigrant Investors to become lawful permanent residents by investing at least $1,000,000 to finance a business in the United States that will employ at least 10 American workers. It has no qualifications that must be met other than having the money to make the investment and being able to prove the money was obtained through legal means. Often times these visa holders invest in targeted employment areas such as rural or high unemployment areas because the investment threshold lowers to $500,000. This investment is seen as very advantageous for those areas. By putting more money into a business and creating new jobs for American workers, the visa is designed to help boost the American economy.

The O-1 visa is another option that can serve as an alternative to the H1B. This visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, education, business, and athletics. The L-1 visa is designed for intra-company transfers of managers or executives to US branches. The employee must have been with the company for over a year. Reach out to an immigration attorney for more information about the H-1B visa and other work visas that are available.

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