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Obama's options for tech immigration take shape

Patrick Thibodeau | Aug. 21, 2014
Path is clear for approval of H-1B spouse rule, other changes may come too

If a company has 51 or more full time employees and 15% of those workers are on an H-1B visa, it is categorized by the U.S. as H-1B dependent and subject to special rules. There is also opposition within the tech industry to a priority system, so it may lack the support needed.

More certain is final White House approval of a rule to allow spouses of H-1B visa holders who are seeking green cards with authorization to work. For now, spouses can't hold jobs.

The U.S. received nearly 13,000 written comments on the proposed rule before the comment period closed last month.

Writing in opposition was the Society of Professional Engineering in Aerospace (SPEEA), whose members are employed as scientists and in technical positions at several large companies, including Boeing.

SPEEA said that there is "the strong likelihood" that spouses will have science, technology, engineering and math degrees (STEM), and that in many cases may work for the same employer are their H-1B holding spouse. It warned that if the rule is adopted, "employers will likely exploit this opportunity by preferentially hiring H-1B workers with STEM-degreed spouses in order to acquire two STEM workers with one H-1B visa."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, supports of the rule, arguing that employed spouses "will improve the likelihood that highly skilled H-1B workers will seek to stay in the U.S. on a permanent basis and remain in the U.S. labor force."

The Obama administration, according to Politico, met with tech and other business sectors earlier this month to discuss immigration issues.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), a critic of the H-1B program, said this week in a statement that "the same group of CEOs" that helped to write the Senate immigration bill "is now scheming with the White House to extract by executive fiat what was denied to them by the American people and Congress."

 

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