Bloomberg Law: “Proposal to Undo Guestworker Spouse Work Permits Coming Soon”

by Joseph McKeown

A proposed rule to reverse an Obama administration regulation granting employment authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B workers is expected to proceed within the next three months. The 2015 regulation provides work authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B workers who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status.  Bloomberg Law says that more than 90,000 work cards have been issued, the majority of them granted to women from India.

In a September 21 court filing, DHS says that “DHS’s senior leadership reviewed the proposed rule” and returned it to US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) to make changes, all standard practice. Within the next three months, USCIS will return the rule to DHS which will then submit to the White House Office of Management and Budget before public review. A group of US technology workers are also pursuing a lawsuit against the 2015 regulation; however, DHS says they will reverse the regulation on their own.   

Immigration practitioners and H-4 holders are waiting anxiously for the outcome. “For an H-4 spouse looking at a 10-year wait to get a green card, that is an incredibly long time to be forced to sit out of the job market,” immigration lawyer Sam Adair tells Quartz India. Meghna Damani, who left her professional job in Mumbai to marry and move to the US on an H-4 and made a film about women in similar situations, says losing the ability to work could send many women back to “the darkest years of their lives.” Until the 2015 regulation, these women  “battled daily frustration, depression, guilt, and shame to finally find freedom, hope, and the ability to dream and live a life of dignity again.”