H-1B Rule Changes to Make Immigrant Families Stronger

Highly-coveted H-1B visas, which are so popular among technology companies and workers, might become even more attractive commodities with newly proposed rules designed to keep talent working in the U.S. The proposed rules center on husband and wife work allowances and also employer documentation of workers’ “highly-skilled” status.

Under current rules, the husbands and wives of H-1B visa holders aren’t allowed to have jobs while their spouse’s green card application is under consideration. The wait for the green card can often be exasperating to some immigrants who end up leaving the country, taking their expertise with them. Implementing this rule change could affect as many as 97,000 people in the first year and some 30,000 annually after that, according to reports.

“These individuals are American families in waiting,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said. “The fact is we have to do more to retain and attract world-class talent to the United States and these regulations put us on a path to do that.”

The other rule proposal calls for a wider range of methods employers can use to document immigrant researchers and professors rate among best-in-class in their fields.

Opposition to the proposed changes, which will go into effect after a 60-day public comment period, has been voiced by Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions. The changes will benefit corporations and immigrants, but he also predicts they will “reduce wages, lower job opportunities, and make it harder scrape by” for struggling Americans.

The proposed changes come only a few weeks after the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced it had reached capacity for fiscal year 2015 H-1B visa applications. Congressional mandate allows for the annual issue of 65,000 visas for employers to fill specialty positions. Another 20,000 of the visas can be issued through the advanced-degree exemption.

In comments surrounding the new regulation proposals, Pritzker said immigrants start approximately 28 percent of new businesses in the United States and that about 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children. Among them, she cited Hungarian-born Andy Grove, the former Intel Corp chief executive; Sergey Brin, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union who co-founded Google; and Jerry Yang, Yahoo co-founder, who came to the U.S. from Taiwan as a boy.