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US Senate H-1B Visa Plan: Work Rights for Spouses

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By Sanwar Ali:


The US Senate's bipartisan plan under the "National Security Agreement" to reform the H-1B visa program intends to grant work authorization for spouses and children of visa holders waiting for a "Green Card". It also aims to tackle excessive green card backlogs. These changes hold significance for employers relying on highly skilled foreign talent and the families of individual H-1B holders themselves.

Work Authorization for Spouses and Children

Automatic work authorization should be granted to approximately 100,000 spouses and children of H-1B visa holders waiting for issuance of permanent immigrant visas annually. This would address limitations on H-4 visa holders currently facing employment restrictions. While exact qualifying criteria will need clarification, here's how this change could impact the US immigration landscape:

  • Attracting Talent: US positions become more appealing when both partners may seek employment.
  • Expanded Talent Pool: The US gains access to a larger skilled workforce as qualified spouses enter the job market.

Solutions for Aged-Out Children

The Senate plan acknowledges the "aging out" problem faced by dependents of H-1B holders after turning 21. To address this, the following measures are part of the H1B visa reform:

  • Grace Periods: Providing work authorization while green card applications are in process will benefit many families.

Both scenarios benefit those on H-1B visas seeking long-term US futures:

  • Family Unity: Reducing forced separations due to age limits helps ensure families remain intact.
  • Retention & Predictability: Offering avenues for families to stay together contributes to a more stable, settled H-1B workforce.

Green Card Backlogs and Wait Times

The Senate's plan signals intent to reduce the immense employment-based green card backlog, affecting Indian nationals on H-1Bs the most. Proposed mechanisms may include:

  • Revising Per-Country Caps: Changes to restrictive per-country limits should speed up processing for those caught in decades-long queues.
  • Prioritization Systems: Streamlining applications based on factors like skill shortage areas, high-demand professions, or educational achievement might make paths to residency clearer.

The potential effects for employees facing these hurdles include:

  • Greater Certainty: While not immediate, movement on streamlining processes reduces the limbo state experienced by many visa holders.
  • Enhanced Stability: Clarity on pathways towards permanent residency allows H-1B holders to pursue career plans and personal goals with a higher degree of assurance.

Stakeholder Perspectives

  • Tech Industry: Support from sectors relying on a global talent pool and reforms easing family transitions.
  • Labor Groups: Some caution exists over possible effects on wages in certain industries. 
  • Immigration Experts: While broadly supporting high-skilled immigration, there are still serious problems with the US immigration system.

Potential Controversies & Roadblocks

Debate frequently accompanies visa reform. Key areas of potential pushback within the H-1B context:

  • Wage Protections: Some claim that foreign workers push down wages.
  • Preventing Fraud: The importance of preventing abuses to ensure compliance with the intent of the visa program remains a priority.


The changes will bring huge benefits for spouses and dependents of H1B visa holders waiting for a "Green Card". helps with US Work Visa: L1, H1B, E2, and O1 Visas

There are various types of US visas that individuals can apply for, depending on their circumstances. Some of the most common employment-based visas include:

  • L1 visa: This visa is for intracompany transferees who work in managerial or executive positions or have specialized knowledge.

  • H1B visa: This visa is for specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields.

  • E2 visa: This visa is for investors who have made a significant investment in a US business and, management or essential skills employees.  Only certain nationalities can apply.

  • O1 visa: This visa is for individuals with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. is a specialist visa services firm with over thirty years of experience dealing with visa applications. For more information and advice, please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at sends e-mail)