Termination of Work Permits for Foreign Workers’ Spouses Delayed

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By Laura D. Francis

A proposal to eliminate a program providing work permits to the spouses of skilled foreign workers stuck in the green card backlog won’t be revealed until at least June.

The Department of Homeland Security Feb. 28 said “significant revisions” were made to a draft that originally was slated for a February release. Those revisions required a new economic analysis, which “required an additional several weeks to perform,” the DHS told a federal appeals court.

The notice about the proposal to revoke work permits for the spouses of H-1B guestworkers came in the context of a lawsuit challenging the 2015 regulation authorizing them. The DHS has been successful several times in getting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to delay the case. The delays are based on the agency’s assurances that it plans to undo the work permit program.

Save Jobs USA, which represents U.S. workers who allegedly lost their jobs to foreign workers on H-1B visas, appealed to the D.C. Circuit after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., dismissed their claims that the spousal work permits create additional job competition.

The DHS in December 2017 indicated an intent to overturn the rule in its fall regulatory agenda.

The work permits are reserved for the spouses of H-1B workers who have been approved for their green cards but are waiting for them to become available. Overall annual limits on employment-based green cards, coupled with per-country caps, can translate into wait times of years or even decades.

The DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has awarded 104,750 work permits to the H-4 spouses of H-1B visa holders, according to agency data.

A representative for the USCIS wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The case is Save Jobs USA v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., D.C. Cir., No. 16-5287, status update 2/28/18.

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