US visa rules ease: Now H-1B visa holders' spouses can work in the US
- Spouses of H-1B visa holders can now work in the US, according to a new ruling by a US district court judge.
- This comes amidst a slowdown in the critical tech sector which has seen more layoffs in the first three months of 2023 compared to the whole of 2022.
- Big tech companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft opposed the lawsuit.
AdvertisementSpouses of H-1B visa holders can now work in the US, ruled a US district court judge on Wednesday, in a major relief to Indian workers in the country. This comes amidst a slowdown in the critical tech sector that has seen more layoffs in the first three months of 2023 compared to the whole of last year.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan dismissed a lawsuit filed by Save Jobs USA, which had opposed an Obama-era rule that allowed spouses of certain categories of H-1B visa holders to get jobs.
Big tech companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft opposed the lawsuit, which should come as no surprise given the fact that foreign-origin workers formed 16.7% of the total labour workforce in 2014, according to the latest data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to a 2017 report by the National Science Foundation, Indian immigrants made up the second largest group of foreign-origin workers in science and engineering jobs in the US. Indian citizens are also amongst the largest group of H-1B visa holders – these visas are generally used by US tech companies to employ skilled foreign workers.
Despite the large number of layoffs in the tech sector worldwide in 2022 and 2023, H-1B visas continue to be in high demand – according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the H-1B visa cap for FY24 has already been reached. The limit for FY24 has been set at 65,000 by the US Congress.
Working to cut visa appointment times by half, says US
The wait times for US visas has been excruciatingly high for Indian nationals, touching a high of nearly three years in 2022. Since then, however, there has been a reduction in the waiting period, but Indians still have to wait between 10-20 times longer than nationals of other Asian countries like China to obtain a US visa.
According to US State Department data, the current wait times for Indians applying for a US visa stands at 500-600 days, while those applying for a work visa will have to wait anywhere between 60-280 days.
In sharp contrast, a Chinese or Sri Lankan national has to wait only 35 days for a US visa. Applicants from Europe have to wait only 20 days.
“Our consular teams across India are putting in the extra hours to meet the needs of international travellers and bring down wait times,” said John Ballard, consular chief at US Consulate General Mumbai.
AdvertisementFor context, the US Embassy in India had issued over 1 lakh visas in January this year. It had also issued 1.25 lakh student visas in 2022, the highest in any year so far.
“The visa operations in India are very different from any other country because of the range of visas and the massive demand,” said Julie Stufft, deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs.
To reduce wait times, interview requirements have been waived off for the time being for regular travellers.
(With inputs from PTI)
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