In a significant victory for foreign workers in the US tech sector, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan has ruled that spouses of H-1B visa holders are eligible to work in the country. The ruling came as Judge Chutkan dismissed a lawsuit filed by Save Jobs USA, which sought to revoke an Obama-era regulation that granted employment authorization cards to certain categories of H-1B visa holders’ spouses.
The lawsuit was strongly opposed by major tech companies, including Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. To date, the US has issued nearly 100,000 work authorizations to spouses of H-1B workers, with a substantial number of beneficiaries being from India.
Judge Chutkan emphasized that Congress had specifically granted the US government the authority to authorize employment as a permissible condition for H-4 spouses’ stay in the United States. This decision refuted Save Jobs USA’s argument that the Department of Homeland Security had no such authority.
The judge further stated that the practice of authorizing employment for H-4 spouses had been explicitly and implicitly ratified by Congress, along with decades of executive-branch practice, which aligns with the text of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Ajay Bhutoria, a prominent community leader and advocate for immigrant rights, applauded the court’s decision, emphasizing the much-needed relief it would provide to families who have been struggling financially. Bhutoria highlighted that the inability of H-1B spouses to work had placed a significant burden on families, and this ruling would help ensure their unity and well-being.
While Save Jobs USA plans to appeal the court ruling, two US lawmakers have introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to grant automatic work rights to H-4 visa holders. The proposed H-4 Work Authorization Act aims to address the labor shortage affecting American businesses and support immigrant families by eliminating the requirement for H-4 visa holders to apply for separate work authorization.
Under the current system, H-4 visa holders must apply for work authorization, which can take several months or even over a year due to backlogs at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The proposed bill would expedite the process, allowing H-4 visa holders to work and provide for their families more quickly while also reducing the workload for USCIS.
The court ruling and the proposed legislation aim to create a more equitable and compassionate immigration system, benefiting both foreign workers and American businesses. With the possibility of increased employment opportunities for H-1B spouses, families across the country can look forward to a brighter future.