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US visa

US ban on spouses’ work permit to largely affect Indian female engineers

US visa

In a move that would affect hundreds of Indian workers especially females, the US has started a process to ban work permit for spouses of H-1B visa holders.

Four days ago, the US government came out with a notice to ban the H-4 EAD (Employment Authorisation Document), a work visa program launched by former US president Barack Obama administration aimed at leveraging skilled spouses of H-1B visa holders and address skill shortage in the technology.

The Department of Homeland Security, in the notice, said that the move will benefit American citizens by having a better chance at obtaining jobs that some of the population of the H-4 workers currently hold, as quoted by Denver post report.

At present, the process is at the second stage and may take a year long duration to be implemented, as per policy observers. Once through, it will be put out for people’s comments before made into a final regulation.

The largest impact of this development will be on Indian female engineers. As per a research estimate, about 93% of the approximately 1 lakh spouses, who are on the H-4 EAD visa, are women from India.

Earlier in Feb, the Department of Homeland Security sent the rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review. This is not the first time such a move has been initiated by Trump administration. In in 2017, the US government decided to cancel the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) program, which was finalised by Former US president Barack Obama administration.

It has been delayed many times after it was proposed for the first time in 2017.

These announcement and hurdles created by the US administration for the foreign workforce have led to downfall in the approval rate. Since 2015, the overall approval rates for H-1B applicants have come down almost 20% in the first quarter of this year.

As per Sarah Pierce, who tracks immigration to the US at Washington DC-based Migration Policy Institute, a fallout of the scrapping of the visa would be a shortage of talent for US tech firms. If an employee’s spouse can no longer pursue a career in the US, it would lead to more people turning down US postings, added Pierce.

Last time, Donald Trump had announced the travel ban from six Muslim majority countries.  It drew criticism from a wide range of companies, with more than 160 technology firms, including Amazon, Facebook, and Google’s  corporate parent Alphabet.

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