Biden admin delivers early win for H4 spouses of H1B workers

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about his administration's plans to respond to the economic crisis during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response event in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S.

“Withdrawn”. A single word on a thick bureaucratic file on the seventh day of the Biden administration delivered a huge win for spouses of workers on H1B visas in the US who spent the last four years worried sick that their work authorisations would be killed off.

This brings to an end years of effort by the Donald Trump administration to rescind an Obama era regulation that allowed a certain subset of spouses of H1B visa holders to work in the US.

“Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization” was a Trumpian agenda pursued by White House immigration hawks with a great deal of inter-agency collaboration and discipline. It was being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

After years on cliff edge, the H4 community is relieved. “We’ve had enough,” said an Atlanta resident who has a valid H4 employment authorisation document.

Soon after Trump came to power, the Department of Homeland Security began reviewing the Obama era rule in 2017 and kept up steady pressure on the H4 community in the US through the Trump years.

The decision to rescind the proposed rule came on the same day the new US president signed an executive order calling for the practice of racial equity in the United States. The lion’s share of H1B visas are awarded to Indians and Chinese workers.

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