Spouses and children of foreign H-1B visa holders are issued H4 visas. A rule brought in during the Obama presidency in 2015 made it possible for spouses, mostly women, to obtain work permits.
Prior to this, these foreigners were not allowed to work or obtain a Social Security number. Since the rule was modified, a total of 41,526 people have been given work permits, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Since the election of Donald Trump a year ago, 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, 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 first time in four years. In April, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services received 199,000 applications, compared to 236,000 received in 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.