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Let H-1B spouses work, California tells federal govt

Google CEO Sundar Pichai and his wife, Anjali Pichai. Source: Facebook/@Laktec

California lawmakers are urging the Department of Homeland Security to not go ahead with their plans to revoke the rule allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US.

In a letter, more than a quarter of the 53 representatives of the California Congress threw their support behind the Obama-era rule that created work authorisation for these spouses who are on the H-4 visas, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The letter by the California Congress members wrote: “Revoking this eligibility…will create significant uncertainty and financial hardship for many highly skilled professionals who are vital to our economy.”

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Tech firms in Bay Area often use the visa programme to fill engineering positions. Source: Shutterstock

“Over 10 million Californians are foreign-born, and without them, we would not have companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Qualcomm which have made California’s economy the sixth largest in the world.”

“Over 880,000 immigrants own businesses in California, and together, those immigrant-owned businesses have contributed over US$21 billion to our state’s economy and created more jobs than such businesses in any other state.”

“Without immigrants, there would be no Google, Apple, Facebook, and Qualcomm.”

Their statements hold weight, not just in California but the entire US. Immigration advocacy organisation GC Reforms estimates that in 44 percent of startups, there is at least one immigrant co-founder. Close to one-fourth of all patents awarded have gone to skilled immigrants.

According to the National Foundation for American Policy immigrants have overall  “started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at US$1 billion dollars or more and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70 percent (62 of 87) of these companies.”

Companies founded by immigrants, worth an estimated US$168 billion, have also created thousands of US jobs.

Despite such contribution, it wasn’t until 2015 that spouses who accompanied these skilled immigrants to the US were allowed to pursue their own careers.

Pre-2015, Indian wives who have followed their husbands to work in the US under the H-1B visas became stay-at-home cheerleaders for their husband’s careers while their own professional lives flounder.

There were no work permits for these spouses then. Not until it was announced in 2015 that certain H-4 visa holders will be eligible to work in the US.

That’s no longer the reality today as the Trump administration announced plans to revoke the permits last December. The Department of Homeland Security said it will propose the rules for this in June, which will be followed by a  public notice and comment period.

If revoked, more than 100,000 people stand to be impacted, the lawmakers wrote. Women are a necessary source of income for these families to survive in the US.

“In many areas where these high-tech professionals live, such as Silicon Valley, it is nearly impossible for a family to live on one income,” they said.

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