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Huge relief for spouses and children of H-1B visa holders

By Lalit K Jha
February 05, 2024 11:35 IST
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In a huge relief for H-1B visa holders, a White House-backed bipartisan deal has been unveiled under which automatic work authorisation would be granted to about 100,000 H-4 visa holders, who are spouses and children of a certain category of H-1B visa holders.

H-1B visa

Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The National Security Agreement that was announced on Sunday after long negotiations between the Republican and the Democratic leadership in the US Senate also provides a solution to about 250,000 aged-out children of H-1B visa holders.


The move comes as good news for hundreds and thousands of Indian technology professionals who are waiting in a painstakingly long wait for a Green Card, in the absence of which their spouses cannot work and their aged-out children face the threat of deportation.

A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.

The per-country caps are numerical limits on the issuance of green cards to individuals from certain countries.

“For too long, going back decades, the immigration system has been broken. It's time to fix it...

"It will make our country safer, make our border more secure, treat people fairly and humanely while preserving legal immigration, consistent with our values as a nation,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement.

In another good news for Indian American immigrants, the bill provides ageing-out protection for children of long-term H-1B visa holders provided kids have maintained H4 status for eight years.

It provides 18,000 more employment-based green cards per year for the next five years with country caps.

This means that over the next five years, the United States will be issuing 158,000 employment-based green cards per year.

“This bill provides work authorisation to approximately 25,000 K-1, K-2, and K-3 nonimmigrant visa holders (fiance or spouse and children of US citizens) per year, and about 100,000 H-4 spouses and children of certain H-1B non-immigrant visa holders who have completed immigrant petitions (temporary skilled workers) per year, so they no longer have to apply and wait for approval before they can begin working in the United States,” the White House said in a fact sheet released Sunday night.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

Occupations that qualify for the H-1B visa are typically in fields such as technology, finance, engineering, architecture, or more.

“It will expedite work permits so that those who are here and qualify can get to work more quickly.

"It will create more opportunities for families to come together – through short-term visits as well as increased permanent lawful pathways.

"It ensures the most vulnerable, unaccompanied young children, have paid legal representation,” Biden said.

According to the White House, the bill ensures that those who are here and qualify can get to work faster.

"It provides work authorisation to asylum seekers once they receive a positive protection screening determination.

"This will allow asylum seekers to begin to support themselves and their families in the United States much earlier than the current 180-day statutorily required waiting period, which only begins after an individual submits an asylum application,” it said.

“This will also reduce the resource strain on our cities and states who have been supporting asylum seekers during this existing waiting period,” the White House said.

For the first time in over 30 years, it raises the cap on the number of immigrant visas available annually by adding an additional 250,000 immigrant visas over five years (50,000/year).

Out of 250,000 visas, 160,000 of these will be family-based, and the other 90,000 will be employment-based, it said.

These additional immigrant visas expand lawful pathways to the United States, prioritising family reunification, reducing the time families have to spend apart, and getting US businesses access to additional workers.

The White House said the bill provides relief to over 250,000 individuals who came to the United States as children on their parents' work visas.

Notably, a significantly large number of them are from India.

“These individuals have resided lawfully in the United States since they were children and have established lives here in the US but have since “aged out” of continuing to receive lawful status through their parents and have no other means of lawfully remaining in the United States with their families,” the White House said.

Non-citizens who lived lawfully in the United States as a dependent child of an employment-based non-immigrant for at least 8 years before turning 21 will be eligible to remain temporarily in the United States with work authorisation.

In support of family unity, the bill makes clear that certain noncitizens can travel to the United States on a temporary visitor (B) visa to visit their family members, it said.

The bill among other things, provides resources to help US allies and partners in the region build the capabilities necessary to address threats from an increasingly assertive China and to meet emerging challenges.

“It is critically important that we maintain our focus on the Indo-Pacific and preserve peace and stability,” it said.

The bill provides $48.43 billion for continued US support to Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

The White House urged the US Congress to quickly pass the bill.

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Lalit K Jha
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