Plan could rescind work permits for spouses of H-1B visa workers

A Bay Area immigration attorney says insecurity is hitting Bay Area workers and companies that could be impacted by changes in immigration laws.

The change is months away but high-skilled workers are already preparing. In recent court filings, the Department of Justice says it will be making changes to work permits for spouses of workers in the U.S. on the H-1B visa and making the change within 3 months. President Trump has said he wants Americans hired first.

Peter Leroe-Munoz with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group calls the latest legal move "unfortunate" saying it could mean the loss of tens of thousands of highly-educated, skilled workers.

"So that's loss #1. Loss #2 its going to make recruiting those talented workers from other countries to come here to the United States that much more difficult," said Leroe-Munoz.

More than 125,000 workers have been granted an H-4 work permit nationwide and are related to a worker with H-1B visa. According to an online database, four Bay Area cities lead the nation for the most H-1B filings as follows: San Francisco is second in the nation for the most H-1B filings, followed by San Jose (6th), Sunnyvale (7th) and Mountain View (9th.)

"I just think this is going to have an unfortunate, significant negative impact on the economy of the U.S. at large and certainly Silicon Valley," said immigration attorney Isabelle Hurtubise. Hurtubise says represents some small U.S. companies that employ H-4 permitted employees. "They're very concerned about what to do, how they can keep that person here. Some of those are very small companies so each individual is quite specific," said Hurtubise.

Hurtubise says she also represents companies with an H-1B worker that is considering leaving if their spouse can't work fearing they can't afford to live in the Bay Area on one income. She says there is a lot of insecurity between workers, their employers, and investors about the legal uncertainty ahead.

It's not yet known what the rule is exactly going to say and if it will apply to new applications or spouses who already have the H-4 permit. In the meantime, Hurtubise is recommending any clients who can renew their permit to do so as a precaution.