By Surabhi Agarwal & Ayan Pramanik
In what will make the H-1B visa regime stricter, the US government has decided to repeal an Obama era rule that allowed spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US.
The move — even though it will impact only a small percentage of H-1B visa holders who were in the running for a Green Card — is being deemed by the Indian industry as restrictive. In a statement issued on Thursday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it intends to do away with that rule without too many details behind the decision. It just said that the move is in accordance with the Donald Trump administration’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ policy stance.
The DHS also stated its intentions for other changes to the H-1B visa programme and said it may revise the definition of which professions will be eligible for the visa programme. This is being done to “to increase focus on truly obtaining the best and brightest foreign nationals,” the statement said.
R Chandrashekhar, president of Indian IT industry body Nasscom, said that this is part of the recent steps which are tightening the regulatory framework, making the H-1B visa route stricter for the skilled workers.
“We continue to work with the US authorities to share the perspective on the kind of impact that this can have and its possible implications,” he said. Chandrashekhar said that Nasscom hopes that the authorities there will look at the impact this will have on the skilled workers coming into the US.
“Shortage of skilled workers is recognised as a fact and will impact the economy of the US as well,” he added.
In a ruling in February 2015, the Obama government allowed spouses of H-1B visa-holders to take up jobs in the US on H-4 visa as dependents. This was a long pending demand of the industry and was meant to reduce “stress” on the immigrants.
Trump administration had, however, in March this year sought 60 days time to respond to a court case filed by Save Jobs USA that challenged the decision of the previous Obama Administration to authorise spouses of H1-B holders, who are awaiting green card, to work in the US.
Experts and immigration attorneys said that it may add to the overall protectionist environment around H-1B visa holders.
“Such proposals are restrictive for potential immigrants skilled people. The visa restriction wave has been clearly there for sometime now and this proposal further accentuates the restrictions,” said Raja Lahiri, partner, Grant Thornton India LLP, adding that one has to see how the move is implemented. In April this year, Trump signed an executive order to review the H-1B visa, which was one of his key election promises.