H4 DHS delay

The Department of Homeland Security issued a court filing Feb. 28, stating it would not issue changes to the H-4 work authorization program until June 2018. DHS, which was expected to issue the text of a rule proposing to terminate H-4 EADs in February, said in its filing that it needed more time to review the economic impact of terminating the program. “We are very hopeful. We want to believe that DHS is re-looking at this because of our efforts,” Jansi Kumar, co-founder of the group Save H-4 EADs, told India-West. (Save H-4 EADs photo via Facebook)

The Department of Homeland Security issued a court filing Feb. 28, stating it would not issue a new rule terminating work authorization for H-4 visa holders until June because it needed to review the economic impact of terminating the program.

DHS had been expected to issue a Notice of Proposed Rule Making – NPRM – in February, intending to revoke H-4 EADs. In 2015, the Obama administration granted work authorization to certain H-4 visa holders – about 100,000 women from India – whose spouses are on track to get legal permanent residency.

An organization known as Save Jobs USA filed a lawsuit in 2016 against DHS, claiming that H-4 work authorization negatively impacted job opportunities for American workers.

In its filing, DHS noted: “DHS was working to issue an NPRM in February 2018. However in January 2018, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the component of DHS responsible for oversight of the H-4 visa program at issue in this litigation, re-evaluated the rule and determined that significant revisions to the draft proposal were necessary.”

“Those revisions required a new economic analysis, which required an additional several weeks to perform. The changes to the rule and the revised economic analysis require revisions to the projected timeline for the NPRM’s publication, and therefore cannot be issued in February.”

“Under the revised timeline, DHS anticipates submitting to the Office of Management and Budget for review and clearance the proposed rule in time for publication in June 2018. DHS’s intentions to proceed with publication of an NPRM concerning the H-4 visa rule at issue in this case remain unchanged,” stated the agency in the filing with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“We are very hopeful. We want to believe that DHS is re-looking at this because of our efforts,”  Jansi Kumar, co-founder of the group Save H-4 EADs, told India-West. Save H4 EADs, which has about 5,000 followers on Facebook, has been meeting with members of Congress to advocate for the work authorization program. “They have been very supportive as we tell them about our situation,” said Kumar, noting that members from both sides of the aisle have responded favorably to the organization’s concerns.

Kumar, who is from Mumbai and has an MBA in human resources, received work authorization in 2016, and currently works in the HR department of an IT company. “They really value my experience here,” she said, noting that, if her work authorization is terminated, it would be difficult for her to adjust her status to an H-1B visa, as she is not working in a STEM field. She and her family would likely emigrate to Canada or return to India, which, she noted, would negatively impact the U.S. economy.

“If we’re not working, we’re not spending,” Kumar said with a laugh. She noted that the problem stems from the huge backlog in issuing employment-based green cards to Indians, with many having to wait more than 70 years (see earlier India-West story here). “If we were from any other country, we would have got our green cards by now and been able to work,” she said.

The group has conducted a survey, sampling more than 2,400 H-4 visa holders who currently have work authorization. She released her findings to India-West:

  • 59 percent have postgraduate or professional degree and above and 96 percent have a bachelor’s degree and above.
  •  43 percent purchased a home after receiving work authorization.
  • 35 percent of them bought a home over $500,000.
  • 49 percent have annual individual income of over $75,000.
  • 18 percent have over $100,000 annual income.
  • 60 percent pay taxes of more $5,000.
  • Five percent have started their own businesses, creating employment for American workers.

Rashi Bhatnagar, who founded the group “H-4 Visa, A Curse,” told India-West that many of the 15,000 members of the organization are relieved that they have a bit more time before a decision is made. “It’s been more than a year of waiting for us. There is a lot of uncertainty.”

“Many people have started careers but don’t know if they will be able to keep them. Many people have started businesses, but they are afraid to invest more and scale up because they don’t know if they will be allowed to continue.”

“My request to DHS: please show up in court,” said Bhatnagar, noting that DHS, the defendant, and Save Jobs USA, the plaintiffs, were essentially on the same page.

“Take a wise decision that will benefit both H-4 visa holders and the American economy,” Bhatnagar stated.

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