Lawsuit Filed By H1B Spouses Over Job Loss, Delay In Work Visa; Will US Govt Take Action?

Many Indians in the United States are resorting to legal action due to delays in biometric processing for the renewal of H4 visas and EADs
Many Indians in the United States are resorting to legal action due to delays in biometric processing for the renewal of H4 visas and EADs

A new class-action lawsuit in a US court brings hope to the spouses of Indian H-1B visa holders who have been affected by long delays in the processing of H-4 visas and work authorization.

The lawsuit was filed against the US Department of Homeland Security on March 22. It also includes L-2 visa holders, spouses of L-1 workers.

H-4 And L-2 Visa Holders In The US

The H-1B visa is mostly for Indian IT professionals. Thousands of employees each year from countries such as India and China are hired by technical companies. The H-1B visa programme provides employers with a path to hire high-skilled workers only if they are unable to find eligible American workers.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues an H-4 visa to H-1B visa holders’ immediate family members (spouses and children under the age of 21), the majority of whom are Indian IT professionals.

 The L-1 visa is generally for intracompany transfers, An L-2 visa enables an eligible L-1 visa holder’s dependent spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to enter the United States.

By obtaining an Employment Authorization Document, eligible H-4 and L-2 visa holders may work in the United States (EAD). H-4 visas are given to a large number of Indians in the United States.

Processing Delay

According to the complaint, almost 91,000 people have lost their jobs in the last two years, a pattern that has intensified since the outbreak. 

The lawsuit was filed in the Western District Court of Washington, US, by the American Immigrant Lawyers Association (AILA) and the law firm Wasden Banias.

According to the lawsuit, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency added “stalled processing visa extension, which, in turn, killed existing and future work authorisation.” 

Many Indians in the United States are resorting to legal action due to delays in biometric processing for the renewal of H4 visas and EADs. They have been unable to arrange their biometric appointment even after months of waiting.

Biometric processing for extension of H4 visas was made mandatory in March 2019. Jesse Bless, AILA’s Director of Federal Litigation, said in a statement: “In 2019, the Trump administration implemented a new biometrics requirement for H-4 and L-2 and other dependents, seeking to extend their stay in the US.”

“These new requirements added to the already extraordinary processing delays—delays that COVID-19 restrictions further exacerbated. The process to attain work authorisation should not put families at the risk of immense loss of income and instability,” Bless said.

According to SaveH4EAD, a group of such Indian women organised a protest march in San Jose, California on International Women’s Day to highlight the plight of tens of thousands of immigrant women who have been pushed out of their livelihoods.

“We are here to reiterate that this is our home, this is where we have spent the last many years of our lives, raised families and contributed positively to the society and economy as skilled legal immigrants,” said Pratima Joglekar, California chapter lead volunteer and an organiser of the event quoting update from TOI

“These delays have led to a serious humanitarian crisis causing havoc in the lives of thousands of skilled legal immigrant women across the US. They’re losing their jobs and health insurances during this pandemic, are unable to renew driver’s license and state ID, unable to .. to their home country or elsewhere, facing grave financial distress, going through severe mental health issues, deep impact on family and kids, among other issues,” a media release said.

Jennifer Minear, President of AILA, pointed out in a statement that the DHS has the legal tools and authority to grant work authorisation to affected individuals whose financial security is hanging in the balance. “DHS can and must revoke the unnecessary biometrics requirements for H-4 and L-2 non-immigrants, and provide automatic work authorization,” he said. It should also allow EAD applicants to file their renewal applications sooner than 180 days prior to EAD expiry to prevent gaps in work authorization, Minear added.

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