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HONCHOS ON THEIR SIDE

Zuckerberg and Gates’s lobby group is fighting for H-1B spouses’ right to work

By Sushma U N

Silicon Valley heavyweights have come out in support of foreign workers bearing the brunt of US president Donald Trump’s tough stance on immigration policies.

On April 24, FWD.us, a tech lobby group co-founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, among others, said eliminating employment avenues for immigrants “would devastate economic growth” in the US.

“The current administration must reverse its attempts to use the regulatory and policy process to make it harder for international talent to contribute to the United States, and to make it more challenging for those who are already here to continue to contribute,” FWD.us said in a report (pdf) that examines the harmful economic consequences of the recent clampdown on legal immigration.

“There is no question that our immigration system is fundamentally outdated and broken, but the answer cannot be to simply shut the door; instead, we must begin the hard but crucial work of reform to ensure that immigration remains a driver of our economy and America’s unique competitive advantage for generations to come,” the report added.

In particular, the FWD.us made a case for continuing with the rule to allow holders of the H-4 visa to work in the US.

The H-4 is a dependent visa granted to spouses of those holding the H-1B visa that lets professionals work in the US for up to six years.

Besides tightening the noose on the H-1B over the last year, the US department of homeland security has also been working on a proposal to restrict work permits for those on the H-4. The draft is likely to be finalised by June and the move is expected to hit Indians sharply as they hold nearly 80% of the H-4 visas.

More recently, in a letter dated April 04, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reiterated its intent to scrap the H-4 visa. The letter was written to Charles E Grassley, chairman of the judiciary committee of the 115th Congress.

The FWD.us highlighted that such a rule would be devastating to thousands of families.

“As a physicist and entrepreneur, the best way for me to actively contribute to the advancement of science and technology in the United States is by leveraging my expertise. Eliminating work authorisation for roughly 100,000 H-4 visa holders, most of whom are educated women like me, will hurt our country and have negative consequences on tens of thousands of American families,” FWD.us quoted Maria Navas-Moreno, co-founder of Lever Photonics and an H-4 visa holder, as saying. “We must protect legal immigration channels that will help the US remain at the forefront of innovation for generations to come.”

The lobby group also said that the government needs to continue its Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme (which allows students with F-1 visas to work in the country for up to one year after completing their education), and the International Entrepreneur Rule (the immigration pathway for foreign entrepreneurs to build startups in the US).

It added that immigrant workers were key to the US’s economic success.