The Trump administration’s move to end work permits for spouses of highly skilled foreign workers in the US, including tens of thousands of Indians, has come as a shock for the large Indian community there.
The spouses, many themselves highly skilled workers, are allowed into the US on a H-4 visa also known as the spouse visas. They are married to people largely employed in the IT industry holding H-1B visas.
The cancellation of the work permit for H-4 visa holders will affect mostly Indian and Chinese women. The move will make redundant work permits issued under a special order by the previous Barack Obama administration.
According to a recent study by the Migration Policy Institute, the US has issued employment authorisation documents (EAD) to more than 71,000 spouses of H-1B visa holders, over 90 per cent (or more than 60,000) of whom are Indians.
A formal communication to this effect is likely this summer, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Francis Cissna said in a letter to Senator Chuck Grassley.
“Our plans include proposing regulatory changes to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation, thereby reversing the 2015 final rule that granted such eligibility,” Cissna said.
Trump wants to push his “Buy American, Hire American” agenda – an executive order he signed last April. Indians may be in for more bad news with plans to tighten rules relating to eligibility for an H-1B visa.
Radhika M.B., journalist-writer and once an H-4 visa holder herself, raised this concern in her book “Visa Wives: Emigration Experiences of Indian Women in the US”. She took the sheen off what many believe is the ideal American life, and detailed how women are forced to give up their cushy jobs and live as housemakers in the US.
Barack Obama had changed that in 2015.
India would take up the matter with the Trump administration. “We are very disappointed by some of the actions by the US administration,” Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu told reporters here.