Spouses of Some H-1B Visa Holders to Be Allowed to Work in US


The 5 things you need to know about H-1B work visaSpouses of H-1B visa holders being sponsored for a green card by their employers will be allowed to work in the U.S. as part of a new initiative by the Obama administration to attract high-skilled foreign workers.

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced Tuesday that the administration plans this and other revisions to regulations for the H-1B and other skilled-worker visas.

Mr. Mayorkas said the goal was twofold: to “encourage highly skilled, specially trained individuals to remain in the United States” and to maintain U.S. “competitiveness with other countries that attract skilled foreign workers and offer employment authorization for spouses.”

Ms. Pritzker said that 28% of new U.S. businesses are launched by immigrants, who represent 13% of the population, and that four of 10 Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children. She mentioned Andy Grove, the former CEO of IntelCorp. INTC +0.11% , who was born in Hungary; Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin, born in Russia; and Jerry Yang, who co-founded Yahoo and is originally from Taiwan.

The rules, which will be published soon in the Federal Register, are expected to go into effect after a 60-day public-comment period.

Congress allows 85,000 new H-1B visas to be issued each year, 20,000 of which are reserved for people with advanced degrees. Under existing regulations, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t extend employment authorization to dependents of H-1B visa holders, who normally have specialized skills in engineering, programming and other high-tech fields.

The decision stops short of giving spouses of all H-1B visa holders blanket approval to work in the U.S. Spouses would become eligible only after the visa holder’s company has petitioned for an immigrant visa for the foreign employee, putting the employee on track for legal permanent residency, known as a green card. Lawful permanent residents generally qualify to become U.S. citizens after five years.

“Allowing H-1B spouses to work would be an important change. Sometimes people aren’t willing to come to the U.S. if their spouse can’t work,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School.

Another revision announced Tuesday will ease requirements for applicants of an EB-1 work visa, which is issued to researchers and professors with extraordinary ability. To qualify, applicants for the visas currently must submit awards, scholarly articles and a host of evidence to prove their outstanding recognition in and contribution to a particular field. The new rule will allow applicants to present comparable evidence that is acceptable, the official said. The U.S. issues 40,000 such visas each year.



Spouses of Some H-1B Visa Holders to Be Allowed to Work in US

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