Another visa-related hurdle that hindered spouses of H-1B visa holders from working in the U.S. has been put on hold. Suspending a federal policy that required the spouses to provide new fingerprints to renew their visas appears to be a good and helpful move. However, the U.S. government continues to lag in addressing a huge backlog of visa and work permit applications by failing to invest in additional resources to process them.
Still, the move to reverse a policy implemented by the Trump administration in 2019 marks a significant step to address the shortage of skilled foreign workers in the areas of technology, medicine, science and engineering. The fingerprint policy led many spouses of foreign workers to lose their work permits due to costly delays in visa processing. Many of these spouses are Indian women who often work in the same industries as their husbands.
Companies feel the squeeze, too
News of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision was disclosed on May 3 in a court filing made by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The latter agency is a division of the DHS. The USCIS declared that the fingerprint requirement will be suspended for two years beginning on May 17.
The Trump administration said that the fingerprint requirement was necessary to ensure that the immigrant spouses were not being untruthful. However, in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the spouses of H-1B and L-1 visa holders against the government, attorneys cite that the change was intentionally meant to delay the visa processing.
Companies such as Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and Twitter, which employ many such spousal visa holders, cite that they were forced to put employees on long-term leave, and that the delays caused economic harm.
The change has been met with applause within some circles of the immigrant community. And a number of these families can stay together.