Fears rise H-1B spouses may lose right to work in US

Washington: The Trump Administration has sought 60 days to respond to a court case that challenges the decision of the previous Obama Administration to authorise spouses of H-1B holders to work in the US.

While the move by the Obama Administration during its last phase was welcomed by the large H-1B community, which mainly included Indians, several American groups challenged this decision in a federal court in Washington DC.

On February 1, the Department of Justice had filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit entitled “Consent motion to hold proceedings in abeyance for 60 days”.

The government has asked for a 60-day pause in the case to “allow incoming leadership personnel adequate time to consider the issues.”

In a statement, Immigration Voice, a non-profit organization, said that this is “especially concerning” because Attorney General Jeff Sessions, when he was a US Senator, called the H-4 Rule a “change (in) immigration law in a way that hurts American workers.”

Even though this rule has actually allowed many H-4 visa holders, including named intervenors, the ability to start businesses in the United States that employ American workers that would otherwise not have jobs if the Rule had not been promulgated, Immigration Voice said.

Immigration Voice has announced to intervene in the Save Jobs lawsuit arguing that this was the “only option” to protect the rights of its members and their families, including children who are US citizens. “There is nothing for the Department of Justice attorneys to confer with their leadership about given the District Court’s clear decision stating that this case had no basis for ever being filed,” said Aman Kapoor co-founder and president of Immigration Voice.

“Any failure to provide the strongest possible defence of the District Court’s decision risks establishing a precedent prohibiting H-4 visa holders from working under the current statutory regime. Under these circumstances, Immigration Voice felt compelled to act to protect the existing and future work permits of our members,” Kapoor said.

One of the petitioners Sudarshana Sengupta, said she has been involved in biomedical research for the last 13 years in the country, initially as a J2 dependent (work authorisation) and later on H-1B visa.

“In August 2015, I decided to use H4- EAD work authorisation to continue my research…I am currently involved in preclinical research and I am on the verge of launching my own start-up developing cancer immunotherapy strategies based on my preclinical studies,” Sengupta said.

If H4-EAD is taken away, I will not be able to launch my start-up, she said.

Another intervenor Anuj Dhamija, who has been legally working in the US since 2010 as a Project Manager for a reputed Fortune 100 company, said due to decades long wait to get green card, he made a switch to the H4 EAD program as it was the only option for him to pursue his business ventures in the interim.

“On this program, I was able to keep my existing job and also start up my small high-end luxurious home remodeling business. As per my business plan, I targeted to generate $775,000 revenue in Year 1, $1.6 million in Year 2 and $1.9 million in Year 3,” he said.

“Along the way, I expected to create 5-10 new American jobs in the construction industry. If this program ceased to exist, I will lose all my investment in the new business and also my job as there will be no other legal option for me to work in the USA,” Dhamija said.