Plan to End Rule That Allows Spouses of H-1B Holders to Work Is Delayed

Plans to rescind an Obama-era rule that allows spouses of thousands of H-1B visa holders to work in the United States have been delayed until June, according to a court filing from the Department of Homeland Security.

President Donald Trump signs an executive order to try to bring jobs back to American workers and revamp the H-1B visa guest worker program during a visit to the headquarters of tool manufacturer Snap-On on April 18, 2017 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump signs an executive order to try to bring jobs back to American workers and revamp the H-1B visa guest worker program during a visit to the headquarters of tool manufacturer Snap-On on April 18, 2017 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Under a rule introduced by President Obama’s administration in 2015, the spouses of H-1B holders who are waiting for green cards are eligible to work in the U.S. on H-4 dependent visas.

Late last year, the Department of Homeland Security said it intends to do away with the rule. It expected to start the formal process for rescinding it in February.

However, in a court filing this week, the agency stated that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services had determined in January that “significant revisions to the draft proposal were necessary.” The revisions, the agency said, required a new economic analysis that took several more weeks to perform.

The update is in response to a legal challenge from a group called Save Jobs USA, which filed a lawsuit in April 2015 arguing the permits threaten American jobs.

Related: Spouse of a skilled-visa holder: Working ‘changed my life’

The filing provides some relief — at least temporarily — to the thousands of people who are currently working on H-4 visas.

The number of H-4 visas overall has been steadily increasing in recent years, with the majority being issued to South Asians. In 2016, 131,051 new H-4s were given out; in 2012, there were only 80,015.

Prior to the Obama administration’s change, H-4 holders weren’t allowed to earn an income or have a Social Security Number. That meant couples could only have one source of income.

The H-1B visa is the common visa route for highly skilled foreigners to find work at companies in the U.S. It’s valid for three years, and can be renewed for another three years. It’s a program that’s particularly popular in the tech community, with many engineers vying for one of the program’s 85,000 visas each year.

A DHS spokesperson said the department cannot comment on active rule making.