H4 visa EAD work permit to end, says USCIS

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NEW YORK – Francis Cissna, the Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has announced the end of granting work permits or EAD to H4 visas holders, the spouses of H-1B visa holders.

Cissna confirmed the move of ending the Obama-era rule by President Donald Trump’s administration, to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in a three-page letter dated April 4.

The move could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visas holders, who have work permits, especially Indians.

“Our plans include proposing regulatory changes to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorization, thereby reversing the 2015 final rule that granted such eligibility,” Cissna wrote.

PTI reported that Cissna said such action would comport with the executive order requirement to “propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system”. As with other revisions to regulations, the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback during a notice and comment period, Cissna said.

The final date to end the EAD for H-4 visa holders could come as soon as fall of this year, if it is implemented.

H4 visa holders were not allowed to work until 2015 when Barack Obama’s administration allowed a section of them, whose spouses were awaiting green card approval, to seek work permits of their own.

Indians comprise nearly 80 percent of the 125,000 EADs issued back in 2015 alone.

According to a recent study by the Migration Policy Institute, “as of June 2017, USCIS had granted 71,287 initial (versus renewal) employment authorization documents to H-4 spouses,” out of which 94 percent were women with 93 percent from India.

Cissna adds in the letter that H-1B, H4, H2B and L1 visas will all be covered under new proposal which will add more restrictions along with the existing ones that the Trump administration has put over the last year like the temporary suspension of premium processing for H-1B visas.

Cissna also stated that the Department of Homeland Security will soon propose new rules to ensure that employers pay “appropriate wages to H1-B visa holders.”

“USCIS is also expanding its administrative site visit program to include L-1B petitions. We are initially focusing on employers petitions for L-1B specialized knowledge workers who will primarily work offsite at another company or organization to ensure they are complying with the requirements. These requirements were meant to help prevent US workers from being displaced by foreign workers,” Cissna wrote.

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