More spouses of high-skilled immigrants will be eligible to work

This week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez made an important, long-awaited announcement: qualifying spouses of H-1B employees will become eligible for employment authorization. The final rule implementing this regulatory change was published yesterday in the Federal Register and goes into effect on May 26, 2015.

This change is important for families and significant for our economy as a whole. We applaud the Department of Homeland Security and the administration for promoting a thoughtful, strategic policy approach on this issue. I know it will make a significant difference for the families of many of our hard-working and talented employees at Microsoft.

Let me explain why:

First, the availability of spousal work authorization helps mitigate some of the difficulties inherent in the lengthy green card process. Today, the employment-based green card process can extend well beyond 10 years for many employees. These kinds of extended backlogs create a tremendous amount of personal stress for those in the process, particularly when accompanying spouses are unable to pursue their own professional ambitions. Repeatedly, I have heard our employees share their stories regarding the deep challenges presented by the lack of spousal employment authorization options. This regulation helps restore the opportunity to work for qualifying H-4 spouses.

Second, the regulation will significantly improve our country’s ability to attract and retain highly educated, highly skilled talent from around the world, including those educated and trained at U.S. universities. The availability of a reasonable framework for spousal work authorization is an increasingly important factor for individuals deciding whether to invest their careers in the U.S. This change fundamentally makes the U.S. more competitive in the global battle for top talent.

Third, spousal work authorization for those in H-4 status provides the U.S. economy with additional skilled workers, many of whom are also highly educated and highly skilled. In our own community at Microsoft, spouses of our H-1B employees include scientists, engineers, doctors and researchers. Unlocking that potential has a direct benefit to American businesses and our nation’s economy.

Microsoft has advocated for this critical change for many years. This final rule is a good example of the tangible positive impact that thoughtful policymaking can have on the lives of real families who are making critical contributions to our country’s economic strength and prosperity.

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