US President Donald Trump
US President Donald TrumpReuters

The Donald Trump administration is planning to set out a new rule in favour of American workers and end the Barack Obama regulation that provides work authorisation to the spouses of H-1B visa holders.

The new plan could stop the spouses of highly skilled foreign workers from working in the United States. The move will also mostly affect people from India and China as H1-B program attracts more high skilled workers from these nations.

The tech sector is a major employer of H-1B visa holders and many Indians are at present staying in the US with their spouses. Spouses of such techies, if they are working in the US with an H-4 visa are now at a high risk of losing their jobs.

Earlier, H-4 visa holders were not given any work permit in the US. However, this changed in May 2015 when the US government under Barrack Obama passed the Employment Authorisation for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses.

Under the rule, the H-4 visa dependent spouses were eligible for work if they applied for Employment Authorisation Document (EAD), but the H-1B spouse should satisfy one of the two conditions –

1) Have an approval I-140, which is the immigration petition for foreign citizens to get a Green Card or Permanent Residency in the US.

2) Have H-1B visa status extended beyond six years under AC21 Act, which allows H-1B holders seeking Green Card to work and stay in the US beyond six years, if their Green Card or Permanent Residency application is pending.

Soon after the H-4 Visa EAD rule was implemented, thousands of H-4 spouses applied for H-4 visa EAD and got their first chance to work in the US after many years of staying at home.

The Obama H-4 rule helped to remove the financial pressure on H-1B families that would otherwise have to manage on a single income.

However, in a statement issued on Thursday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that it intends to do away with the H-4 EAD rule without too many details behind the decision.

It just said that the move is in accordance with the Trump administration's 'Buy American, Hire American' policy stance.

Modi US visit
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs U.S. President Donald Trump as he departures the White House after a visit, in Washington, U.S. [Representational Image]REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The DHA also said that it might make other changes to the H-1B visa programme and revise the outlines of which professions will be eligible for the visa programme in an attempt to obtain only the best and brightest foreign nationals.

"Such proposals are restrictive for potential immigrants' skilled people. The visa restriction wave has been clearly there for some time now and this proposal further accentuates the restrictions," said Raja Lahiri, partner, Grant Thornton India LLP.

In addition, the latest data from job site Indeed also showed there has been a sharp drop in the number of Indians seeking to move to the US and the UK over a year, compared to the corresponding period the previous year.

About 38 percent drop was seen in the number of Indians wanting to work in the US and 42 percent in the UK. Overall, the data showed there was a five percent drop in Indians looking to move abroad in search of job opportunities.

Such crackdown on H-1B visas by the US might also push this number up.