A judge has ruled that spouses of H-1B visa holders can work in the United States, which is a major relief for foreign laborers in the U.S. technology industry.
In doing so, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan dismissed a lawsuit filed by Save Jobs USA, which had petitioned the court to overturn an Obama-era regulation that granted employment authorization cards to certain categories of H-1B visa holders’ spouses.
Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, among others, opposed the lawsuit. The United States has issued nearly one million work permits to spouses of H-1B employees, the majority of whom are Indian.
In her order, Judge Chutkan stated that Save Jobs USA’s primary argument is that Congress has never authorized the Department of Homeland Security to permit foreign nationals, such as H-4 visa holders, to labor during their stay in the United States.
She wrote that this argument contradicts the Immigration and Nationality Act, decades of executive-branch practice, and both explicit and implicit congressional endorsement of that practice.
The judge wrote that Congress has expressly and knowingly authorized the U.S. government to permit employment as a permissible condition of an H-4 spouse’s remaining in the country.
She stated that the fact that the federal government has historically and openly been responsible for authorizing employment for comparable visa classes is further evidence that Congress approves of it exercising this authority.
In the ruling, Judge Chutkan stated that the Department of Homeland Security and its predecessors have authorized employment not only for students but also for their spouses and dependents.
In dismissing Save Jobs USA’s lawsuit, the judge noted that the Department of Homeland Security has long granted work authorization to the spouses of foreign government officials and employees or officers of international organizations.
Ajay Bhutoria, a prominent community leader and advocate for immigrant rights, applauded the court’s decision to permit H1B spouses to work and provide for their families.
The H1B visa program is intended to permit skilled foreign employees to enter the United States and work for American businesses. Until recently, however, H1B spouses were not permitted to work, which imposed a significant financial burden on families, he said.
“With the court’s decision to allow spouses of H1B visa holders to work, tens of thousands of families will be able to breathe a little easier. This decision will provide much-needed relief to families who have been struggling to make ends meet, and it will help to ensure that these families can remain intact and flourish,” said Mr. Bhutoria.
“Allowing H1B spouses to work is not only a matter of economic justice but also of family cohesion and stability. I commend the court’s decision, and I hope this is only the beginning of a more compassionate and equitable immigration system,” he said.
Save Jobs USA stated that it intends to appeal the court’s decision.