H-1B spouse work ban pushed by Homeland Security

H-1B spouse work ban pushed by Homeland Security

Originally Appeared in The Los Angeles Times.

By BY ETHAN BARON| THE MERCURY NEWS

FEB 22, 2019  

A planned employment ban for an estimated 100,000 spouses of H-1B visa holders has moved ahead with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sending the proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget.

The prohibition would affect the spouses of H-1B visa holders on track for green cards. University of Tennessee researchers have estimated that 93 percent of the about 100,000 spouses, who are in the U.S. on H-4 visas, are women from India.

The right to work for people on the H-4 visa was granted in 2015 under President Barack Obama. Scrapping it has been a priority for the Trump administration. Homeland Security has marked the proposed rule as "economically significant."

"Some U.S. workers would benefit from this proposed rule by having a better chance at obtaining jobs that some of the population of the H-4 workers currently hold," the Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration said in a notice about the proposed rule.

Homeland Security this week sent its draft H-4 rule to the OMB, which will review it and return it to the department Homeland Security with or without recommended changes. The review could take days or weeks, said Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless Immigration, a technology company helping families with immigration, and a former White House official under Obama who helped implement the H-4 work authorization. After the review, Homeland Security will publish a draft rule in the Federal Register, triggering a public comment period.

Such periods typically last 30 to 60 days, but can extend to 180 days or more.

Under certain circumstances, rules can be finalized without comment periods, but Citizenship and Immigration Director L. Francis Cissna said in a Sept. 6 letter to the Internet Association which represents major tech firms such as Facebook and Google that rely on H-1B visas for hiring foreign workers that "the public will be given an opportunity to provide feedback during a notice and comment period on any revisions to regulations that DHS determines are appropriate, including revisions relating to the H-4 Rule."

The rule would be finalized after the comment period closed. But a final rule is unlikely to come soon, as large numbers of public comments are expected, and lawsuits will likely be filed to try to block the rule, Rand said.

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