07/07/2015 8:26 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Work Permits For Spouses of H1-B Visa Holders Will Help Families, Economy

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The news that the United States has finally decided to amend its regulations to allow the dependent spouses of the specialised H-1B visa holders to work was hailed with jubilation by Indian Americans.

Effective immediately, US Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting applications for employment.

Technology companies have lobbied hard for this change, which they say will retain and attract more foreign talent and their educated spouses. This will apparently affect 97,000 people in the first year, and 30,000 per year after that.

It's one of a few small changes in immigration policy that the White House can make while comprehensive reform languishes in Congress.

Rashi Bhatnagar, a former journalist from New Delhi who is currently unemployed, is ecstatic.The 31-year-old Milwaukee resident took a stand seven years ago. She started a Facebook blog H4 Visa, A Curse. It has attracted about 13,000 "likes" and many people routinely log on to commiserate. "We had no financial independence, no identity in this country. I was a voiceless, faceless human being," she said. She came here to be with her husband Kapil, who works for Cognizant.

Pallavi Banerjee, a post-doctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University, agrees. She has studied the effects of the visa policy on the domestic affairs of high-skilled immigrants from India, and found that they often regressed to the traditional model of dominant husbands and subservient wives. This led to depression, anxiety, domestic violence and financial difficulties."As a sociologist, I wanted to discover the stories of people who need their voices heard and who are made invisible. There was no activism or even public discussion," says Banerjee, who started the project seven years ago. "It affected me as a feminist academic and as an immigrant woman. I was appalled at the US Laws."


Rashi Bhatnagar

Suman Raghunathan, executive director, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) hails the new rules as a giant, powerful step towards meaningful and comprehensive reform that will benefit immigrants."The new rules allow these individuals to pursue their dreams, innovate, and add tremendous energy and value to our nation's economy and economic future for all," he says.

Ravi Batra, a famous Manhattan attorney also applauds the new development. "A family that is fully and gainfully employed is not only good for that individual unit but good for the entire nation as each working member in our nation is contributing to the country's economy," he says.


Pallavi Banerjee

This will change lives, promises Jyotsana Sharma, a housewife in Edison, New Jersey, who dreams of being an entrepreneur.

"The sky is the limit now," she says.

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