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More than 90,000 H-4 Visa Holders Heave a Sigh of Relief as Federal Court Upholds Their Work Authorization

More than 90,000 H-4 Visa Holders Heave a Sigh of Relief as Federal Court Upholds Their Work Authorization

  • Save Jobs USA, which represents Southern California Edison computer professionals, said it’d appeal the decision.

A U.S. District Court upheld the Obama administration rule that grants work authorization to spouses of high-tech workers on H1-B visas. The court ruling must have come as a relief to nearly 90,000 workers on H-4 visas, most of them from India.

Nearly 70 percent of spouses, many of whom are women who accompanied their husbands on dependent H-4 visas, are highly qualified in science and engineering. After decades of wasting their potential to contribute to the hungry information technology sector, in 2015 the Obama administration allowed H-4 workers to apply for EAD or Employment Authorization Document.

The rule was unpopular with advocacy groups that oppose both H1-B and H-4 visas as they claim that they are stealing the jobs of American citizens. One such group, Save Jobs USA, challenged the rule under the plea that the Department of Homeland Security was not legally permitted to implement it.

Apart from the tech sector’s need for these highly qualified workers, there is a humanitarian consideration as well. H-4 visa holders, most of whom are women, have been victims of exploitation and domestic abuse.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, appointed by President Obama, however, decided that “Plaintiff’s primary contention is that Congress has never granted DHS authority to allow foreign nationals, like H-4 visa-holders, to work during their stay in the United States 
 That contention runs headlong into the text of the (Immigration and Nationality Act), decades of executive-branch practice, and both explicit and implicit congressional ratification of that practice.”

Save Jobs USA said it’d appeal the decision. A lawyer for the group said, “We now have complete chaos as the federal courts have seized control over the immigration system from Congress and handed that authority over to DHS.”

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However, plaintiffs may have a tough battle ahead with courts turning down the challenges several times and reinstating the H-4 EAD rule. Also backing the rule are most industry leaders, including Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

Apart from the tech sector’s need for these highly qualified workers, there is a humanitarian consideration as well. H-4 visa holders, most of whom are women, have been victims of exploitation and domestic abuse. Apart from the lack of financial independence, there have been scores of reports of abuse of dependent wives, who could not even apply for driving licenses without the approval of an H1-B visa-holding husband.

There is also the question of dependent children on H-4 aging out upon turning 21 years old, which remains unresolved in many ways.

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