H-1B Spouse Issue Back in the News — and an Easy Solution

Toward the end of his second term, President Obama signed an executive order directing that spouses of certain H-1Bs be given U.S. work permits. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Trisha Thadani is now speculating that the Trump administration may reverse that order (or that a pending lawsuit against the order may succeed).

Obama probably overstepped his legal authority — by bypassing Congress on what was more than a mere administrative matter — but that has been recent practice among presidents of both parties, to cut the Gordian knot of congressional gridlock. Putting that aside, though, there is an extremely simple solution: Give the H-1B spouses work rights, but count them toward the annual H-1B cap.

It makes good sense. The purpose of having a cap in the first place is ostensibly to keep foreign workers from flooding the job markets, thereby reducing wages and job opportunities for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. So it makes sense to count the spouses toward the cap.

The spouses of the H-1Bs are typically in the tech/STEM area themselves. The policy could apply only to such spouses, or those working in jobs that normally require a college degree (as the H-1B law/regulations require).

Note by the way this passage:

Some [H-1B spouses] said living on one income in the exorbitantly expensive Bay Area would lead to financial struggles for their families.

Indeed! But the huge number of H-1Bs, both those currently holding the visa and also former H-1Bs who are now U.S. citizens or permanent residents, is obviously a primary cause of those exorbitantly high real estate prices. It’s great for those of us Bay Area homeowners who got in on the ground floor and enjoy all that appreciation in prices, but the H-1B spouses making the above statement have to understand that they are part of the problem.

But back to my proposal: What’s not to like? (Unless you are with the Cheap Labor Lobby.) It remedies the H-1B spouses’ understandable frustration, but is in keeping with the basic legal philosophy of the visa program.


15 thoughts on “H-1B Spouse Issue Back in the News — and an Easy Solution

  1. They are free to find an employer to file for them under the rules of the H-1B program. No one should obtain a benefit from the employment of their spouse. Without the oversight of the requirement to qualify for the visa, poorly qualified individuals will be able to work. One of the main criteria for H-1B workers is for their degree to be in the area in which they are to be employed.

    If spouses are granted the ability to work without this requirement, there will be some in jobs which do not qualify or others who are not qualified by training for the positions they holds. It is not unusual to see ads on some of the forums catering to South Asians for short courses for IT application programs with guarantees for jobs and for discussions of how a spouse with a degree in basketweaving can get an IT job.


  2. If there is no time limitation like 6 years(as the wait time is nowhere close to 6 years), then this proposal is in the right direction.


  3. What does it mean to “certain spouses of H-1b” – is there a criteria? My understanding is they did not need to have any skills – that they could get jobs at Walmart and retail stores – jobs that Americans need. Regardless, you proposal solves the problem.


  4. The federal government posted over 12,000 comments from the public about the proposed rule before it went into effect. I estimate that over 90% of the comments favor the new rule. Below are some of the comments.

    “This is littel step forwad to get America back #1 country in world”

    “it improves american economy by adding more people who can contribute.”

    “We H-1 Visa holders are working very hard for improving US Economy”

    “They would be an asset to this country.”

    “I am in support of this rule and enabling H4 dependents to work with help both them and US economy.”

    “I highly support this change as it provides a win-win situation for both H-4 holders and the job markets as well as the U.S. economy.”

    “I support this rule. This will help us both personally and professionally in turn USA economy.”

    Too bad US workers are not well organized.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joe, want to bet that most of those comments weren’t from H1-Bs and their spouses? There is NO limitation on who may comment, and no requirement that you identify your citizenship status, either. It’s a lot easier ot organize a rather small group, which H1-Bs are, than a diffuse group of American workers.


      • Thanks for the reality check, Mara. The situation is worse than I ever imagined. There is something called “state-sponsored internet sock puppetry” whereby a government uses “paid internet propagandists with the intention of swaying online opinion, undermining dissident communities, or changing the perception of what is the dominant view”. So, I will not be surprised if many of the comments came from the federal government ( sock puppetry) under the Obama administration.


    • Non-citizens should not be allowed to comment on pending legislation – or at least their comments should be differentiated from those of citizens. I cannot imagine any other country where the opinions of guest workers are considered in making of law and policy.


  5. The root of this bill is the fact that H1-bs do not earn the prevailing wage. Two incomes are necessary to get by. Concerned parties wish to maintain status quo, including Obama puppet masters.


  6. Not a bad idea, but seems to me that the inability of the spouse to work without her own H1-B should be factored into the decision to take the H1-B in the first place. These are supposed to be highly paid exceptional workers fulfilling a shortage, yet they’re not being paid enough for the household to be able to live on one salary?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The spousal H1B work visa is more than that – it’s an *unrestricted work visa*. The spouse of an H1B visa holder can work anywhere, anytime, any hours and even have a business.

    Isn’t it a teeny bit contradictory that the primary visa holder is chained in shackles, while the dependent is allowed to roam free? Can you not see obvious abuses of the visa (really, the primary H1B holder will get in on the shady consulting/body-shopping under the spouse’s cover – welcome more useless IT consulting!)

    One of the arguments used very vehemently until the final days that order was passed was that of *human rights* (just check out the Facebook page of *H4 visa – a curse*). Basically, not having an unrestricted right to work in the United States is a violation of basic human rights. Then, why don’t we apply the same standard to all the humans (all 7 billion of us) at *all places* including INDIA? Oh no…did I hear some angry responders decrying illegal immigration from India’s own neighbors (Bangladesh most notably)? How about India’s own Silicon Valley (Bangalore and Hyderabad) giving unrestricted visa permits to arch-enemy Pakistan? Can you just imagine what would happen in that country of double standards if that were to happen?

    I hope the H4 EAD is killed for good. And you have hit the nail on the head with respect to real estate. Where I live, a couple of satellite towns have sprung up that are filled completely with immigrants (and most notably, just Indian nationals too). Immigrants are even stretching themselves way too much to buy houses driving up the prices, because they want to get in on the American dream and often lack financial sense and judgment to buy a modest house.

    And finally, there is an issue of corruption and it’s plaguing at the highest order (the Federal government itself). There are massive organizational structures that are filled with immigrants from top to bottom, and since everyone has an overpriced house and a mortgage to serve, corruption runs rampant. It shows up in small ways. For example, lying on the resumes is extremely common (this is talked openly in immigrant circles – I am one myself, so I know). Taking advantage of and milking *work from home* is another (often times, this is used when schools are off and there is no alternative daycare arrangement). Since there is no one to impose the work standards (the boss, boss’s boss and their boss are all immigrants and all are doing it), the work is absolutely shoddy. Case in point – the Obamacare website debacle. The federal government is littered with examples of millions of dollars waste like this.

    These are dark times. And this was one of the strongest reasons I voted Trump as an immigrant with brown skin.


    • Speaking of corruption. A recent news item that’s been under reported in the MSM is just how a Pakistani immigrant and his family of IT specialists became so entrenched with the Democratic Party on the Hill that Debbie Wasserman Schulz and others went out of their way to protect them. Seems they’re accused of misuse of funds, theft of gov’t equipment, and the implication is that there was blackmail and possible espionage. No explanation as to how these Pakistanis were able to come here–what visa(s) they held, and why we needed to hire foreign nationals and give them access to confidential gov’t files–which they had until just a few months ago. The wife is now back in Pakistan, along with several hundred thousand dollars. The FBI caught her leaving with more than $12,000 in cash (illegal to carry more than $10,000 out without declaring it), yet they let her continue her trip and don’t expect her back.


  8. We don’t need any of these people. The emphasis should be to eliminate the visa program until every American that can work is working.


  9. What’s wrong with this proposal? Industry not at all likely to let that go through, since spouse is not employer indentured, which is half the draw of using an H1B for employee.


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