Spouses of H-1B visa holders may lose work rights

Immigrants in Illinois whose spouses have H-1B visas may lose their right to work in the United States on their H-4 spousal visas. While the Obama administration granted spouses the right to work if the H-1B visa holder was working toward permanent residency, the Trump administration is considering removing this right. This leaves many families in limbo as they wait to see what will happen.

Most of the people affected are from India and China, and the backlog for permanent residency is around 10 years. Their spouses tend to be well-educated, but when they cannot work, they begin to feel isolated and depressed. Save H4EAD, a group organized by a H-4 visa holder, surveyed its members and learned that nearly all have bachelor's degrees, and more than half have higher degrees. The ability for the spouse to work is a significant factor for some families in deciding whether to come to the country in the first place and whether to remain.

Some families have made purchases, such as a home, based on the ability of both spouses to work. They worry about the affordability of cities that attract tech workers like them on a single income. One man who made a film about H-1B visa workers said many young Indians are now considering Canada and other countries with less restrictive work policies.

People who are in the process of seeking work permits, permanent residency, citizenship or other types of permission to remain in the United States might want to consult an attorney. Because immigration law is so fast-changing, it may not be possible for people to rely on their own or others' previous experience. An attorney may be able to keep applicants up to date on changes in the law and assist in preparing the necessary paperwork and other documentation.

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