A U.S government plan to prevent spouses of H-1B visa holders from working in the country has been scrubbed by the President Joe Biden administration. The Feb 10 announcement brings some sense of relief to non-immigrant families led by holders of H-1B visas, which are issued to highly skilled foreign workers many of whom work in the tech, science, medical and engineering industries.
The Biden administration’s declaration erases a plan proposed by former President Donald Trump in 2017. Not surprisingly, many of these spouses, too, work in the same industries as their partners. While in the country, they possess H-4 temporary visas, which are issued to spouses and dependents of H-1B visa holders.
Thousands could no longer work
The proposed federal regulation would have affected about 100,000 foreign citizens – a great majority being women from India. The uncertainty of their situation led to many within this H-4 visa group to suggest that if barred from working in the U.S., they would leave the country.
As part of the H-4 visa program since 2015, spouses could work in any industry if their partner was on the path toward securing a green card. Although the Trump administration introduced the ban during the former president’s first year in office, the move never came to fruition.
Under attack during the Trump years, the H-1B visa program benefits many U.S. companies. Matters came to a head last fall when the Trump administration declared its strategy to limit the number of foreign workers in receiving H-1B visas. The proposal would lead to a wage-based selection system rather than lottery-based selecting, shrinking the number of visas by one-third.
During its final days, the Trump administration announced the definitive form of those rule changes, which would have gone into effect in March. In early February, the Biden Administration said that Trump’s H-1B visa plan is now on hold through the end of the year until additional review.
Each year, the U.S. issues 85,000 H-1B visas. The majority – 65,000 – are for specialized foreign workers. The remaining 20,000 get issued to students who have completed their studies in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.