The widespread fears over the impact of the Trump administration’s protectionist “America First” policy are coming true. The latest proposal to revoke the Obama-era work permits of H-4 visa holders, the spouses of H-1B workers, will adversely affect countless Indians pursuing their dreams in the Land of Opportunities.
In tune with his campaign promise of visa reforms to protect the interests of local Americans, Trump is planning to revoke the 2015 rule that extends work authorisation to the spouses of H-1B visa holders.
If the move goes through, thousands of Indian spouses of H-1B visa holders in professional jobs and businesses will be out of work overnight. What is more alarming is that a staggering 93% of the total H-4 visa holders in the US having work authorisation are from India.
A latest Congressional report on the spouse visa says that one-fifth of these H-4 visa holders live in California, home to global technology giants. The latest decision is part of a larger suite of moves targeted against immigrants, which includes a ban on travellers from five predominantly Muslim countries and a plan to wall the United States off from Mexico.
While it is nobody’s case that Indian immigrants should have a special privilege to jump the queue for an easy access to be part of the workforce in America just by virtue of their marriage to H-1B visa holders, the sudden cancellation of the policy would be severely disruptive, throwing many out of jobs and businesses. Over 36,000 work authorizations were approved till June for the fiscal 2017.
Indians receive a major chunk of H-1B visas and typically account for over 86% of the visas issued for technology firms every year. The green card application procedures can stretch over 12 years. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing a string of changes in the light of President Trump’s ‘Buy American and Hire American’ order issued last year.
This could potentially deter a number of high-skilled immigrants from staying in the US if their spouses cannot find work easily. And, over 90% of all H-4 visa holders are women. It must be noted that thousands of Indians, who started businesses in the US, have been contributing significantly to the economy.
The restrictive visa regulations would push the future plans of such hardworking individuals into jeopardy. These curbs could not have come at a more inappropriate time for Indian IT sector which is already smarting under downward revision of revenue growth forecast. As a country of immigrants that is in need of highly skilled workers, America cannot afford to be inconsistent and whimsical on visa rules as such an approach could discourage great talent from wanting to enter the country.