H1-B visa spouses may soon get to work in US

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By EL­IZ­A­BETH WU in New York and ZHANG QI­DONG in San Fran­cisco

China’s highly skilled work­ers in the United States have long been a con­tribut­ing force to the coun­try’s econ­omy, but ob­tain­ing a work visa for their spouses has al­ways been dif­fi­cult. Now the US is propos­ing to change that.

Though still in the pro­posal stage, the ex­pected rule change would al­low H-4 de­pen­dent spouses of highly skilled im­mi­grant work­ers who hold an H-1B visa to work legally in the coun­try. Un­der cur­rent reg­u­la­tions, the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment does not al­low such work au­tho­riza­tion for spouses.

On May 6, the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment an­nounced the pub­li­ca­tion of two new pro­posed rules: to ex­tend em­ploy­ment au­tho­riza­tion to cer­tain de­pen­dant spouses of H-4 visa hold­ers, of H-1B work­ers (sim­i­lar to spouses of E or L visas) and a pro­posal to en­hance op­por­tu­ni­ties for cer­tain groups of highly-skilled work­ers by re­mov­ing ob­sta­cles to their re­main­ing in the US, by al­low­ing cer­tain visa hold­ers such as E-3, H-1B1 and CW-1 visa hold­ers to con­tinue work­ing for 240 days, while an ex­ten­sion pe­ti­tion is pend­ing.

Pro­pos­als are sub­ject to a 60-day pe­riod of pub­lic com­ment, which could lead to changes. Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials have said they hope to is­sue fi­nal reg­u­la­tions by yearend.

The con­gres­sional-man­dated quota for H-1B visas is 65,000 for the fis­cal year 2015 be­gin­ning Oct 1. The US Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices (USCIS) will award 20,000 more H-1B visas to those with a mas­ter’s de­gree or higher de­grees from US ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions. China has the sec­ond-high­est num­ber of cit­i­zens re­ceiv­ing H-1B visas.

“We must do more to re­tain and at­tract world-class talent to the United States and these reg­u­la­tions put us on a path to do­ing that.” said US Sec­re­tary of Com­merce Penny Pritzker. “These ac­tions prom­ise to un­leash more of the ex­tra­or­di­nary con­tri­bu­tions that im­mi­grants have al­ways made to Amer­ica’s in­no­va­tion econ­omy.”

The new pol­icy for H-1B to Chi­nese fam­ily mem­bers will ben­e­fit both US and China.

“The bar lift by US Home­land Se­cu­rity will pro­vide am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties for fam­ily mem­bers who are skilled pro­fes­sion­als from China. There were a lot of lim­i­ta­tions for H-1B visa holder’s fam­i­lies be­cause of the old pol­icy”, said June Chu, US rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Govern­ment Hu­man Re­source Bureau. “It’s def­i­nitely great news to them now and it is also a good sign of an im­proved US econ­omy. I be­lieve this new work­force will gear up pos­i­tive en­ergy in the US econ­omy.”

Oth­ers echoed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments, “The pre­vi­ous lim­i­ta­tion to spouses of H-1B hold­ers put a lot of pres­sure on the fam­i­lies since the spouses were not al­lowed to work in the US, and many had to re­turn to China af­ter a cer­tain pe­riod of time. Now the new pol­icy gives so much flex­i­bil­ity to those fam­i­lies,” said Stephanie Xu, se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of East West Bank in Cu­per­tino, Cal­i­for­nia.

Con­nie, a 26 year-old pub­lic re­la­tions specialist who works in New York and is an H-1B visa holder, said, “From my per­sonal per­spec­tive, it will gen­er­ally be a good thing if it could be ap­proved. For those with H-1B who are al­ready mar­ried, if their H-4 spouse can get the chance to work, it will en­hance the sta­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity of the fam­ily to stay in the US.”

Con­nie, who asked that her last name not be used, and her boyfriend of two years, also an H-1B visa holder who is now ap­ply­ing for a green card, said they are look­ing for­ward to the rule change. They hope that when the new rule goes into ef­fect, if they were to get mar­ried Con­nie can then ap­ply for an H-4 visa, and have more free­dom to look for a job be­cause H-4 de­pen­dent visa hold­ers will be is­sued the Em­ploy­ment Au­tho­riza­tion Doc­u­ment (EAD) card, which will al­low them to change jobs and work for var­i­ous com­pa­nies. Con­tact the writer at read­ers@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com and kel­lyzhang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com.

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