To attract best global talent whose choices depend upon spouse’s work visa, and disproportionately affects women
Google is leading a determined effort by US tech giants to support a programme that gives work authorisation for spouses of employees with H-1B foreign work visas, the most sought after among Indian IT professionals.
Google is joined by 30 other companies to support the H-4 EAD (Employment Authorisation Document) programme. An H-4 visa is issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of H-1B visa holders.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
“Google is proud to support our nation’s immigrants. We joined 30 other companies to protect the H-4 EAD programme which spurs innovation, creates jobs and opportunities, and helps families,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted.
Google on Friday filed a legal brief in a lawsuit called Save Jobs USA vs US Department of Homeland Security. Tech companies that signed on to the amicus brief include Adobe, Amazon, Apple, eBay, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, PayPal and Twitter.
“To support this important programme, we are leading an amicus brief with over 30 companies and organisations to preserve and protect the H-4 EAD programme,” Catherine Lacavera, vice-president (legal) at Google, said in a blog post. “This builds on an amicus brief we recently joined in support of a lawsuit filed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association to expedite the delayed processing time of H-4 work authorisations,” she said.
Kent Walker, senior vice-president (global affairs) at Google, said H-4 EAD authorisations for spouses of high-skilled workers help American companies recruit and retain the world’s best talent. “Today we led a business coalition filing on behalf of 30 companies to preserve and protect the programme,” Walker said.
“H-4 EADs provide work authorisation to more than 90,000 H-4 visa-holders —more than 90 per cent women. Covid has disproportionately affected women. Ending this programme would make things worse, disrupting careers and reducing wages,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to welcome a person to the US to work but make it harder for their spouse to work. That hurts their family and hurts our economy, now and in the future,” he added.
The plaintiff is Save Jobs USA, a group of computer workers formerly employed by Southern California Edison and replaced by foreign workers imported on H-1B guest worker visas. Save Jobs USA filed the lawsuit in 2015. It was delayed as former president Donald Trump’s administration considered rescinding the H-4 work rule.
A week after his inauguration on January 20, US President Joe Biden withdrew a Trump-era rule rescinding work authorisation for H-4 visa holders. Now, both plaintiffs and the Biden administration are seeking summary judgment.
In the amicus brief, Google said: “The regulation at issue here — the H-4 Rule, US Department of Homeland Security, Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses, 80 Fed. Reg. 10,284 (Feb. 25, 2015) — provides work authorisation to more than 90,000 H-4 visa holders (spouses of certain H-1B visa holders), more than 90 per cent of whom are women.”
“Invalidation of this rule would result in these talented individuals being barred from the workplace, forcibly severing tens of thousands of employment relationships across the country,” it said.
The results would be destructive for the families impacted. By just one measure, about 87 per cent of these families have made crucial life decisions on the promise of H-4 employment, including whether to have a child and whether to buy a house, it said.