Since 2015, the spouses of H-1B, or high-skilled, visa holders waiting for green cards have been eligible to work in the U.S. on H-4 dependent visas, under a rule introduced by the previous Obama administration.
Proponents have argued that the Obama H-4 rule helps alleviate financial pressures of H-1B families that would otherwise have to manage on a single income, a move that can help retain overseas talent in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security, which announced the review of the rule, did not specify why.
While some lawmakers have called for suspending or limiting the Visa Waiver Program in light of the danger from foreign jihadists, the administration said it considers the program a net positive.
The Trump Administration issued a notice, titled "Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization", on December 14, as part of its "Unified Agenda", a bi-annual list of regulations by various federal agencies.
The Wall Street Journal said such a proposal dismayed supporters of the programme.
Current immigration law in the USA allows for a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas to be made available each government fiscal year, including 65,000 new H-1B visas for overseas workers.
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It has continued to press the case following Trump's election, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said in the past that the H-4 rule "hurts American workers". During the next year, more than 36,000 applications were approved, through June. "I wanted to just die".
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 26,858 employment authorization documents were approved for H-4 visa holders in fiscal year 2015, 41,526 in fiscal year 2016, and 36,366 from October 1, 2016 to June 29, 2017. "To no longer feel like a burden".
The DHS dropped another bombshell, on December 14, apart from their statement on the H-4 EAD, which is sure to make the entire H-1B community panic and agonize, as well as make Indian outsourcing companies in particular jittery about future hires: it mentioned plans for changes to the H-1B visa program.
Since Trump administration came to power, talks about overhauling H1B visa program had intensified causing panic among Indians who account for 70 percent of total H-1B recipients.
The Trump administration has also gone after H-1B via holders themselves.
In addition to making changes in the H-4 EAD program, the DHS is also mulling of making some significant amendments to the H-1B visa program, which was one of the key agendas of Trump's Executive Order.