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H-1B workers' spouses could be denied work authorization

Some foreign employees of Tennessee companies may face hard choices after a regulation was proposed that could end employment authorization for the spouses of employees in the country on H-1B visas. The spouses of these visa holders are currently issued H-4 visas, which allow them to work as well. H-1B visa holders are highly skilled or technical workers who are sponsored to come to the United States by their employers, and they often pursue permanent residency in the United States. Their spouses can also work, a program that allows these families to support themselves.

However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has proposed a regulation that would eliminate these authorizations for spouses on H-4 visas. It is not clear whether this change would also affect people who have work authorizations or whose applications are already in process. Many H-1B visa holders are very concerned about this issue, especially because there is a lengthy backlog in processing green card applications. Once the H-1B holder becomes a permanent resident, his or her spouse could receive a work authorization. This change could produce significant financial hardship for many people whose spouses are currently able to work in the United States.

Some workers, especially highly-skilled or executive ones with H-1B visas, may look towards a one-year temporary transfer to Canada. Because these workers are already employed, their company could apply for a non-immigrant Canadian work visa for the employee. If that visa is approved, his or her spouse would be able to work in Canada for a year. After their return, they may be eligible for a more advantageous visa status.

Many people are worried about ongoing changes to immigration policy under the Trump administration and their potential impact. Companies who hire immigrant workers or immigrants themselves can consult with a lawyer about their options.

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