There is good news for spouses of professionals in the US who are holders of H-1B visas. The US government has decided to grant the spouses work permits. This means that the spouses of H-1B visa holders (also known as H-4 dependants) will now be able to work during their stay in the US. This change is scheduled to be effective from 26th May, 2015.
The direction to implement this change was part of the immigration executive actions announced by President Barrack Obama in November last year.
What is the significance of this decision?
The significance of this decision by the US government is that it provides an opportunity to a large number of professionally qualified spouses to seek employment while they are in the US. It will prevent the spouses from taking unintentional breaks from their careers.
Moreover, the decision will also help to increase the resource pool in the US.
What is the implication of this change on Indians?
Indians will be among the largest beneficiaries of this impending change. Indian IT companies send a large number of IT professionals to the US armed with H-1B visas every year. In fact, Indian IT companies have secured about 30,000 H-1B visas in the last two years out of the total 65,000 H-1B visas granted.
So, the implementation of the decision will be a welcome change for the spouses of the Indian H-1B workers, i.e., H-4 visa holders.
This change will also result in increased economic stability for the affected families.
Is the policy applicable to spouses of all H-1B workers?
The work permit policy will not be applicable to spouses of all H-1B visa holders. As per the decision of the US government, the work permits will be granted to the spouses of those H-1B visa holders who have applied for a green card or lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
This restriction limits the impact of this amendment on the Indian H-1B visa holders and their spouses. This is because only 1 to 2 percent of the Indian H-1B visa holders apply for a green card. However, it is definitely a positive change for those workers who have applied for their green cards.
Since the green cards take 7 to 12 years for processing, this can be a very welcome change for such workers.
How many people are expected to benefit from this policy change?
This new policy is expected to impact about 179,000 people next year. It is believed that the change could affect around 55,000 people in the subsequent years. This is by no means a very large number. However, it is definitely a positive impact, though small.
Will the implementation be a success?
The policy change in terms of granting work permits for spouses of H-1B visa holders is a step towards stopping highly talented professionals from leaving US shores. The move recognizes the contribution of skilled workers to the US economy.
However, what remains to be seen is that how this policy is implemented and how many people actually derive benefit from it.
Though the legality of the executive action of President Obama is being questioned, only time will tell the true impact of this amendment and how successful the implementation will be.