view counter

ImmigrationDHS relaxes employment rules for H-1B visa spouses

Published 4 June 2014

Last month DHS proposed two new rule changes which would allow H-4 dependent spouses of highly skilled immigrant workers who hold an H-1B, E, or L visas, to work legally in the United States. Current regulations prohibit work authorization for spouses of said visa holders. Some immigration advocates say the proposal is too narrow since getting employers to sponsor an H-1B visa applicant is already challenging.

Last month DHS proposed two new rule changes which would allow H-4 dependent spouses of highly skilled immigrant workers who hold an H-1B, E, or L visas, to work legally in the United States. Current regulations prohibit work authorization for spouses of said visa holders.

The previous limitation to spouses of H-1B holders put a lot of pressure on the families since the spouses were not allowed to work in the US, and many had to return to China after a certain period of time. Now the new policy gives so much flexibility to those families,” said Stephanie Xu, senior vice-president of East West Bank in Cupertino, California.

China Daily reports that China has the second-highest number of citizens receiving H-1B visas.

The proposal would also improve employment opportunities for E-3, H-1B1, and CW-1 visa holders by allowing them to continue working for 240 days while an extension petition is pending. The Congressional-mandated quota for H-1B visas is 65,000 for fiscal 2015, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will issue 20,000 more H-1B visas to immigrants with a master’s degree or higher degrees from American colleges and universities.

We must do more to retain and attract world-class talent to the United States and these regulations put us on a path to doing that,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “These actions promise to unleash more of the extraordinary contributions that immigrants have always made to America’s innovation economy.”

The proposal is open to a period of public comment until 11 July 2014. DHS officials hope to issue the final regulations by year-end.

The bar lift by U.S. Homeland Security will provide ample opportunities for family members who are skilled professionals from China. There were a lot of limitations for H-1B visa holder’s families because of the old policy”, said June Chu, U.S. representative for the Shanghai Municipal Government Human Resource Bureau. “It’s definitely great news to them now and it is also a good sign of an improved U.S. economy. I believe this new workforce will gear up positive energy in the US economy.”

Some immigration advocates say the proposal is too narrow since getting employers to sponsor an H-1B visa applicant is already challenging. Doug Stump, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Associationsaid, said that while the proposed rule is an “important” step, “only the spouses of H-1B workers who have passed some of the hurdles to receive an employer-sponsored green card will be eligible. That means a relatively narrow group of people will be helped by this change, while many H-1B visa holders’ spouses will remain stuck in neutral, unable to contribute to their families or our country’s economy.”