Rule change: Allow spouses of foreign workers to hold jobs in U.S.

The spouses of skilled foreign visa works will be allowed to get jobs in the U.S. under proposed rules announced by the Obama administration this month.

Existing regulations for the H-1B visa program do not allow them to work. The change would permit them to do so if their spouses have started applying for legal permanent residence.

H-1B visas are reserved for foreigners who can work temporarily in specialty fields that require some level of theoretical or technical expertise. Many of the jobs require a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in experience. The metro Atlanta’s demand for H1B workers is among the highest in the nation, federal records show.

Critics say the program depresses U.S. wages and that these jobs should go to U.S. citizens, particularly amid high unemployment. Federal officials say the proposed rule change will help the U.S. attract new businesses and investment.

“These steps will help the U.S. maintain competitiveness with other countries in our efforts to attract the best and the brightest high-skilled workers from around the world to support companies here at home,” Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a prepared statement.