Trump’s Proposal Could Impact Spouses of H-1B Holders

This past week, the Trump administration proposed the revocation of a rule that allowed the spouses of immigrant workers to work while in the US. This rule was initiated in 2015 under the Obama administration, and it provided that the spouses of H-1B, high skilled, visa holders could work in the US on their H-4 dependent visas. While the exact reasons behind this announcement were not explained, the Department of Homeland Security said it was “acting ‘in light of’ the ‘Buy American, Hire American’ executive order…signed in April” (CNN). Over the past year, this idea has been a large influencing factor on immigration policy. It has been used to support a decrease in legal immigration to the US in order to keep jobs open for Americans that could otherwise be filled by foreign nationals. By ending the rule in question, the administration would theoretically be working to keep jobs available for Americans rather than allowing the spouses of visa holders to take them.

The rule allowing spouses to work on their H-4 presented an easier pathway to attaining their own work than having to pursue their own, separate work visas. Revoking this rule will not impact their ability to accompany an H-1B holder, but restricts their ability to work by eliminating one pathway to legal work authorization. As was the case with H-4 visas prior to 2015, this could serve as a deterrent for the H-1B holder, whose spouse could not easily find work unless he or she applies for a non-dependent visa. If this is the case, jobs may not only be left vacant by spouses of H-1B holders, but by the would-be H-1B holder who no longer chooses come to or stay in the US. This could impact various industries throughout the United States that rely on high-skilled foreign workers, one in particular being tech companies.

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