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As part of the reforms to attract and retain highly skilled
immigrants, the Department of Homeland Security has
announced several changes, including allowing the spouses of
H-1B visa holders to work. Currently, the H-4 visa holders are
not eligible to work.
As a part of comprehensive immigration reform, the
President supports legislative measures that would attract
and retain immigrants who create jobs and boost competitiveness here in the United States, including creating a ‘
startup visa,’ strengthening the H-1B program, and ‘stapling’ green
cards to the diplomas of certain foreign-born graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, the
• Provide work authorization for spouses of certain
This proposed change to the current DHS regulation would
allow certain spouses of H-1B visa holders to legally work
while their visa holder spouse waits for his or her adjustment
of status application to be adjudicated.
Specifically, employment will be authorized for H-4
dependent spouses of principal H-1B visa holders who have
begun the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment after meeting a minimum period of
H-1B status in the US. This effort will help retain talented professionals who are valued by US employers and who seek to
contribute to our economy.
Expand eligibility for a 17-month extension of
optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 international students to include students with a prior degree in
science, technology, engineering and mathematics
Presently, an F-1 student may only engage in optional practical training (OPT) for 12 months. F-1 students who graduate
in programs of study classified as STEM can obtain a 17-
month extension of OPT as part of their F-1 status if the
degree they hold is included on the DHS list of eligible STEM
degree programs. This proposed change would expand eligibility for extension of OPT by including students with a STEM
degree that is not the most recent degree the student has
received. Furthermore, because of the dynamic nature of
STEM-related education and training, the DHS will continue
to review emerging fields for possible inclusion in the list of
eligible STEM degree programs.
• Allow for additional part-time study for spouses
of F-1 students and expand the number of designated
school officials (DSOs)at schools certified by DHS to
enroll international students.
This regulatory reform would allow spouses of F-1 students
to enroll in additional academic classes on a part-time basis
while their spouse is pursuing full-time studies. Presently,
under the current regulation, spouses may only take part-time
vocational or recreational classes. Schools would also be given
increased flexibility to determine the number of DSOs needed
at their institution to meet both the administrative and guidance needs of students.
Allow outstanding professors and researchers to present a
broader scope of evidence of academic achievement.
This proposed change to the current DHS regulation would
increase the types of evidence that employers can submit to
demonstrate that a professor or researcher is among the very
best in his or her field. Currently, applicants for the employ-ment-based immigrant visa category of ‘outstanding professors and researchers’ are limited to specific types of evidence
listed by regulation. This would allow ‘comparable evidence’
beyond the specifically articulated regulatory list. This change
will harmonize the evidentiary standard for this category with
the other exceptional ability immigrant visa categories.
• Launch Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative.
On February 22, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
will launch its Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative with an
Information Summit in Silicon Valley, California, that will
bring together high-level representatives from the entrepreneurial community, academia, and federal government agencies to discuss how to maximize current immigration laws’
potential to attract foreign entrepreneurial talent.
The Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative builds upon the
DHS’s August announcement of efforts to promote startup
enterprises and spur job creation. The Information Summit
will focus on ensuring that immigration pathways for foreign
entrepreneurs are clear and consistent, and better reflect
today’s business realities. The summit will include a special
recognition of outstanding contributions made by immigrant
entrepreneurs to our nation’s economic growth and prosperity.
To learn more about the summit, visit Entrepreneurs in
Residence Information Summit.
A Philadelphia-based attorney, Morley Nair, comments: ‘As
always, it is definitely heartening to hear some even remotely
pro-immigration news from the White House. However, honestly speaking, I think this announcement has been hyped out
of proportions by the Indian media.
‘First of all, the DHS press release emphasizes the Obama
administration’s commitment for immigrant reforms. This is
nothing new except that little has been done in the past three
years in spite of all such public statements by the administration. Further the release says these are a series of administrative reforms which will be completed in the future. How soon
in the future, especially in an election year, is anybody’s guess.
‘About expansion of Optional Practical Training to include
students with a STEM ... degree that is not the most recent
degree the student has received, I am not sure how many students would be benefited because it looks unlikely that too
many students with a STEM degree would go for a non-STEM
advanced degree in the United States.
‘The proposal for H4 spouses’ employment eligibility also
has conditions attached to it, and we should wait for the
details. The proposal says such authorization would be given
to spouses of principal H-1B visa holders who have begun the
process of seeking lawful permanent residence, after meeting
a minimum period of H-1B status in the US How long is such
waiting period has not been specified.
‘Anyway, let us hope something positive soon materializes
from this announcement.’
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