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Highly skilled immigrant spouses can soon work in US

Published:Thursday | February 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM


When Neha Mahajan's husband got a job transfer from New Delhi to New Jersey, she was excited to come along. But the thrill faded when the television reporter realised there was no way she could get a job in the United States, because immigration rules barred her from working.

Over six years, she became deeply frustrated.

That changed Tuesday, when the Obama administration announced a visa rule revision that will let spouses of some highly skilled immigrants apply to work in the United States, starting this year.

"This rule has come as a big, big relief to me," Mahajan said during a press call organised by immigration-reform activists. "I can finally dream of being myself."

Leon Rodriguez, director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the change will encourage more highly skilled workers to come to the United States on H-1B visas and apply for green cards to stay here. He said attracting those workers and their spouses, will give a boost to America's economy.

"They are, in many cases, in their own right, highly skilled workers," Rodriguez told reporters, adding that many families struggled financially when a spouse couldn't work, and, in some cases, returned to their country.

Employers can hire foreign workers under H-1B visas after proving there are no qualified candidates available in the US. Each year, about 85,000 are issued, mostly in tech firms.

Until now, their spouses have been issued a different H-4 visa that made them ineligible to get a Social Security number. They simply couldn't legally earn any money.