MUMBAI: A bipartisan bill – the H-4 Work Authorization Act has been announced by Congresswomen Carolyn Bourdeaux and Maria Elvira Salazar.
The bill would allow H-4 visa holders to be automatically granted their work authorization without needing to submit a ‘Form I-765’, Employment Authorization Document (EAD) application, which can take months to be approved, explains an official statement.
The objective of the bill is to address the national labour shortage affecting American businesses while helping immigrant families thrive together.
If enacted, it will help nearly a lakh plus Indian spouses, primarily wives of H-1B visa holders. Many of them owing to delays in processing of employment authorisation documents, have lost jobs, faced set-backs in their careers or had to give up running their own business.
Spouses of H-1B workers are given an H-4 visa. Only in certain cases, such as where the H-1B visa recipient is on track for a green card or where the H-1B visa recipient has got an extension beyond the permitted six years, can the H-4 spouse apply for an EAD aka work permit.
An extension for the H-4 visa and work authorisation renewal cannot be done earlier than six months before the expiry of the visa status. There is no automatic extension of the work authorisation document and processing delays that extend to eight months or more have led to loss of jobs for several H-4 visa holders.
“Right now, the spouses of highly-skilled immigrants have to fight through years of bureaucratic red tape before they are allowed to work in the US,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux.
“This bill removes these needless barriers to ensure families can contribute and prosper together. If we are going to continue to be competitive and attract the greatest minds and talent around the world, we must ensure that the family members of high-value immigrants are able to build a life and a career in the US, just like everyone else,” she added.
According to Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar, this policy will help the US maximize its entrepreneurial spirit and continue leading in job creation, innovation, research and development, and economic growth by meeting critical labour market needs.
The H-4 Work Authorization Act proposes to change the current law to allow the spouses of H-1B immigrants to automatically be granted work authorization upon receiving their H-4 visa. This would remove the requirement for visa holders to apply for a Form I-765, Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
This legislation hopes to fill America’s labour gap and allow these visa holders to quickly work and provide for their families. It could also help to reduce the backlog of work authorization applications at USCIS by providing immediate work authorization to H-4 visa holders and reducing the number of work authorizations USCIS must process.
Owing to a class action lawsuit, some H-4 visa holders are eligible for auto extension of their EAD, if they have valid status that lasted longer than the EAD. Typically, this is not the case.
Thus, this bill is of significant importance to the Indian diaspora, the moot question is will like many other immigration related reform bills fall by the wayside?