In a significant relief to foreign workers in the American tech sector, a US judge has ruled that spouses of H-1B visa holders, the vast majority of whom are Indians, can work in the country. The decision comes shortly after tech companies across the US, and globally, witnessed massive layoffs. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan dismissed a lawsuit filed by Save Jobs USA seeking to overturn an Obama-era regulation that granted employment authorization cards to certain categories of H-1B visa holders’ spouses.
Save Jobs USA is an organisation made up of IT workers who claim they were laid off because of H-1B visas. Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft were among the companies that opposed the lawsuit. So far, the US has issued nearly 100,000 work permits to spouses of H-1B workers.
What did the court ruling say?
- Save Jobs USA’s main argument, according to Judge Chutkan’s order, is that Congress never gave the Department of Homeland Security the authority to permit foreign people, such those who have H-4 visas, to work while they are in the country
- Yet, that argument, according to her, runs straight into the Immigration and Nationality Act’s text, decades of executive branch practise, and both explicit and tacit congressional approval of that practise
- The judge ruled that the US government has been expressly and intentionally given permission by Congress to permit employment as a legal prerequisite for an H-4 spouse’s admission to the country. She said that Congress has approved the federal government’s use of such jurisdiction since it has long had an open duty for approving employment for similar visa classes
- According to Judge Chutkan’s ruling, the Department of Homeland Security and its predecessors have authorised employment not only for students, but also for their spouses and dependents
- In addition, the Department of Homeland Security has long granted work authorization to spouses of foreign government officials and spouses of employees or officers of international organisations, the judge wrote while dismissing Save Jobs USA’s lawsuit
What is an H1-B visa?
The H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign workers to work in the United States for a period of up to six years. This visa is specifically designed for highly skilled workers in specialty occupations, which require a bachelor’s degree or higher, such as engineers, computer programmers, and scientists.
For Indians working in the US, the H1-B visa is extremely important because a large number of them are employed in the technology and engineering sectors, which require highly skilled workers. However, until recently, H-1B spouses were not allowed to work, which often placed a significant financial burden on families.
A report by news agency PTI quoted Ajay Bhutoria, a prominent community leader and advocate for immigrant rights as saying, “With the court’s decision to allow H-1B visa holders’ spouses to work, thousands of families across the country will be able to breathe a little easier. This decision will provide much-needed relief to families who have been struggling to make ends meet and it will help to ensure that these families can stay together and thrive.”
Bhutoria added, “Allowing H-1B spouses to work is not just a matter of economic fairness, but it is also a matter of family unity and stability. I applaud the court’s decision, and I hope that this is just the first step towards a more compassionate and equitable immigration system.”
Save Jobs USA said it plans to appeal against the court ruling.
(With inputs from agency)