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U.S. to allow H1B spouses waiting for green card to work - Permits Foundation welcomes this long-awa

The U.S. Government will soon allow certain H1B dependent spouses to apply for employment authorization, in a move to help U.S. employers retain highly educated H1B employees who have applied for permanent residence and are caught in the long queue for a green card.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez announced the change, which will come into effect on 26 May 2015.


“Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense,” Rodríguez said. “It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families.”


Permits Foundation welcomes this long-awaited decision, having cooperated with the U.S. based Council for Global Immigration and Society for Human Resources to provide evidence on the need for change,  which also will bring the U.S. more in line with the growing number of other countries that allow accompanying spouses and partner to work.


The US already allows the spouses of intra-company transferees, treaty traders and exchange scientists to work. Under the new rule, the number of H4 spouses eligible is estimated to be at most 179,600 in the first year and 55,000 a year thereafter.  As this represents only 0.1% of the employed population, the USCIS expects there will be no adverse impact on jobs for US citizens. On the contrary, there is evidence that the contributions that talented immigrants make to entrepreneurship and research and development are highly correlated with economic growth and job creation.


Full details of the new regulation and rationale are given here. 


Finalizing the H-4 employment eligibility was an important part of the executive actions President Obama announced in November 2014 after Congress did not reach agreement on more comprehensive immigration.


Permits Foundation will continue to support efforts in the U.S. to extend work authorization to all employment-based classes of dependent spouses and partners.


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