Administration

DHS to halt fingerprint requirement for spouses of immigrant workers

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is set to suspend a fingerprint requirement for spouses of legally employed foreign workers, potentially unclogging a bottleneck that's prevented thousands of individuals from working in the country.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a federal agency under DHS that's in charge of visas and naturalizations, said in a court filing this week that it would lift the Trump-era requirement starting May 17, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

When reached for comment, a USCIS spokesperson said the agency "will be making more information about this requirement available to the public in the coming days."

The fingerprint requirement applied to spouses of H-1B and L-1 visa holders, and it created significant backlogs as USCIS struggled to schedule and process the fingerprinting.

Thousands of foreign nationals legally in the United States, including visa-holder spouses, depend on work permits issued by USCIS to legally work during their stay in the country.

H-1B visas are the most common temporary high-skill work visas, and L-1s are given to foreign executives whose employers transfer them to the United States from positions abroad.

The change in USCIS policy comes as lawyers representing H-1B and L-1 visa holders filed a class-action lawsuit arguing the fingerprint requirement was purposefully designed to slow the distribution of work permits to spouses.

The 2019 implementation of the fingerprint requirement affected not only the spouses of H-1B and L-1 holders, but also applicants for other categories of visa who are required to submit fingerprints and were therefore affected by the backlogs.

A group of large tech companies signed an amicus brief in the class-action case, arguing the fingerprint requirement and the ensuing backlogs were causing personal and financial damage, both to employers and employees.

Updated at 12:40 p.m.

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