Friday, 24 August 2018 10:03

H-1B visa holders' spouses set to lose right to work

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H-1B visa holders' spouses set to lose right to work Pixabay

American plans to strip the spouses of holders of H-1B visas of the right to work have reached the final stage, with the Department of Homeland Security inching towards approving the change.

A report in the Los Angeles Daily News said the change, which had been promised by the DHS in February, was now in its final clearance review.

The DHS made its statement as a filing in a case brought by an advocacy group, Save Jobs USA, which claims that the DHS does not have the right to grant work permits without approval from Congress.

The visas granted to spouses and adult dependents of H-1B visa holders are known as H-4 visas. They were introduced during the Obama era.

The technology industry has lobbied against banning H-4 visa holders from working, claiming that it would undercut their ability to hire foreign workers.

Since the rule was introduced, a total of 41,526 people have been given work permits.

Save Jobs says it is comprised of workers who were employed by energy utility Southern California Edison “until they were replaced by foreign workers imported on H-1B guest worker visas".

Edison, along with Disney and UC San Francisco, are reported to have forced tech workers to train their H-1B-carrying replacements.

Three Save Jobs members mentioned in the case allege they were told by Edison that they would lose their jobs and then had to train their H-1B replacements from Indian outsourcing giant Tata Consultancy Services.

They were reportedly told that if they did not do so, they would be denied severance pay and documentation that would entitle them to unemployment benefits.

Since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the US has been clamping down on H-1B visas which are used to bring in about 85,000 people a year to work in the country. Many of them are Indians who work in the technology industry.

In October 2017, the government issued new guidelines making it tougher for existing H-1B holders to renew their visas, specifying that they would have to go through the same process for renewal as they did to first obtain the visa.

The number of applicants for H-1B visas fell this year for the second time in five years. In April 2018, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services received 190,098 applications compared to 199,000 a year earlier. The figure was 236,000 in April 2016.

Another new stricture on H-1B visas, is that computer programmers would not be presumed to be eligible for an H-1B visa. Rather, details of qualifications need to be supplied so that it could be determined whether the individual is fit to do the specialised task for which the visa is sought.

This guidance means that H-1B visas will go to very high-skilled and higher-paid professionals, with low- and mid-level jobs presumably to go to American workers instead.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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