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.