Indians to benefit most from sop for ‘H1-B spouses’

WASHINGTON (TIP): Kusuma’s long hard winters of discontent in America, six of them in fact, are drawing to a close. Spouse of an Indian H1-B visa professional who came with her husband to the United States in 2009, the Bangalore University graduate had to become an involuntary homemaker, despite her degree in accounting, because her H-4 dependent visa tied to her husband’s guest worker visa barred her from seeking employment in the US.

The Obama administration on Tuesday announced it was extending work authorization to certain categories of H-4 visa holders effective May 26, 2015, sending a wave a joy and relief through Kusuma and thousands of so called “H1-B spouses” across America, a majority of them from India. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which initiated the move as part of President Obama immigration reform, an estimated 179,600 H-4 dependent spouses will be eligible to apply for employment authorization in the first year of implementation alone, and an estimated 55,000 H-4 spouses will be eligible to apply in subsequent years.

”Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the US makes perfect sense,” USCIS Direction Leon Rodriguez said while announcing the changes and presenting it as a win-win to both potential immigrants and the United States. ”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.”

Not all H-4 visa holders will be qualify for work authorization, USCIS has clarified. The immediate beneficiaries will be spouses of those H1-B visa holders who have applied for green cards through their employer and have received an approved Form I-140 (called Immigration of Petition for Alien Worker), and spouses of those have extended H1B status beyond six years based. Kusuma, whose name has been changed at her request, makes the cut on the first count.

”The important thing is I can express myself and feel my academic degree is not useless,” says Kusuma, who worked in an accounting firm in Bangalore before she came to the U.S after her marriage to a software professional.

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