Citizens' Issues
Spouses of H-1B visa holders can get US work permits from 26th May

Once the USCIS approves Form I-765 and H-4, dependent spouse would receive an Employment Authorisation Card, allowing he or she to work in the US

 

The US has announced that it will provide work permits to spouses of H-1B visa holders beginning 26th May, a move that is expected to benefit thousands of talented and professional Indian spouses who come to America but are unable to work.
 
Under existing laws, spouses of H-1B visa holders, many of whom are Indians, are not eligible to work.
 
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting applications for work visas from H-1B spouses on 26th May.
 
Once USCIS approves the ‘Form I-765’ and the H-4 dependent spouse receives an Employment Authorisation Card, he or she may begin working in the United States.
 
USCIS estimates the number of individuals eligible to apply for employment authorisation under this rule could be as high as 179,600 in the first year and 55,000 annually in subsequent years. The move has been welcomed by Indian-Americans.
 
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) in a statement applauded the US government for announcing that it will extend work authorisation, effective 26 May 2015, to some H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
 
The USCIS, in a statement, said the Department of Homeland Security is extending the eligibility for employment authorisation (EAD) to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants, who are seeking employment-based Permanent Residency.
 
Eligible individuals include certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants (principal H1B worker) who are the beneficiaries of an approved ‘Form I-140’, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or satisfy at least one or more of the three conditions.
 
The conditions include that the principal H1B worker has an approved ‘I-140’ or is currently on an extended H1B status beyond the 6-year limitation based upon an I-140 petition application pending for at least 365 days (one calendar year)
 
“This decision is going to directly affect many of our life members as they would now be able to join the professional workforce and chase the ‘American Dream’,” the Telugu Association of North America said in a statement.
 
Recent State Department figures show that approximately 76% of those who received H-4 status in 2013 were from South Asian countries.
 
“Many H-4 dependent spouses have found themselves to be involuntary homemakers upon their arrival to the US, which not only impacts their family income and sustainability, but also diminishes their ability to expand upon professional skills,” SAALT said.
 
SAALT has called on USCIS to allow all employment authorisation for all H-4 visa holders, as H-1B workers and their families are most successful when H-4 visa holders have the ability to contribute to their household income and our economy and pursue their goals.
 
“Today’s announcement is a welcome first—step that will dramatically help some families in the US but the success of H-1B workers, their families and our nation’s economic growth is limited when only some H-4 visa holders are eligible for work authorisation,” it said.
 

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BJP's 92% donations in FY2014 came from business houses: report
According to analysis done by ADR and NEW, on an average, BJP received Rs13.19 lakh per unique donor, Congress received Rs11.70 lakh, NCP received Rs1 crore while CPI and CPM received Rs3.23 lakh and Rs4.03 lakh, respectively per unique donor
 
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has received the largest chunk of donations above Rs20,000 from corporate and business houses before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The top three donors of BJP are Bharti Group's Satya Electoral Trust, Sterlite Industries India Ltd and Cairn India Ltd, reveals an analysis done by Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW). 
 
According to ADR report, a total of 704 donations from corporate/ business sectors amounting to Rs157.84 crore were made to BJP during 2013-14. Satya Electoral Trust, donated the highest Rs41.37 crore from three donations, followed by Sterlite Industries India Ltd that donated Rs15 crore from four donations and Cairn India which donated Rs7.50 crores from two donations to BJP.
 
“It is to be noted that none of the above three donated to BJP during FY 2012-13”, ADR said in a release.
 
According to ADR, total donations received by BJP, Indian National Congress (INC), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Communist Party of India (CPI) during FY2013-14 showed an increase of 158% from previous year. Total donations to BJP during the same period jumped 105% to Rs170.86 crore. Donations declared by BJP during FY14 is more than twice the aggregate declared by the INC, NCP, CPI and CPM during the same year, ADR said.
 
The donations declared by BJP amount to 69% of the total donations declared by all the national parties together, ADR said, adding that the total amount of donations above Rs20,000 received by national political parties during 2013-14, calculated from the donations report submitted to the EC annually, stood at Rs247.79 crore.
 
ADR said on an average, BJP received Rs13.19 lakh per unique donor, INC received Rs11.70 lakh per unique donor, NCP received Rs1 crore per unique donor, while CPI and CPM received Rs3.23 lakh and Rs4.03 lakh, respectively per unique donor.
 
“It is to be noted that three donations from individuals from Singapore (Ashish Todi, Vikas Dhanuka, PC Prasad) were made to BJP, amounting to a total of Rs8.50 lakh. These were the only declared donations from outside India,” said ADR, adding that the PAN numbers were not given in all three donations, which were paid through cheques.
 
The ADR analysis also found some discrepancies in the declaration. “Donations made by A to Z Online Services Pvt Ltd (Rs84 lakh) and Jumana Goolam Vahanvati (Rs20 lakh) were through the same cheque number (957). Similarly, donations made by Ravi Developers (Rs7.50 lakhs) and Ravi Development (Rs7.50 lakhs) were through the same cheque number (7939569).”
 
Noting that PAN details of the first four donors were not declared in the contributions report of the party, ADR said full details of all donors should be made available for public scrutiny under RTI, as in some countries abroad.
 
Political parties were required to submit their contributions report for 2013-14 to the Election Commission before October 2014. The report from BJP was received only on 20 December 2014.

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Will the Budget provide tax relief to civil aviation sector?
Once the Budget provides some tangible relief to civil aviation sector, chances are that some airlines would come forward to adopt certain airports as their own, establish their hubs, look at regional connectivity closely and help generate employment opportunities
 
The general feeling in the aviation sector is that the Union Budget to be presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 28th February, may provide them with some cheer, particularly on the reduction of taxes on the aviation turbine fuel (ATF). Many states levy value added tax (VAT) ranging from 4% to 30% and the industry hopes that this should be unified across the States to be not more than 3% or 4%.
 
Direct import of ATF is possible but the infrastructure needed to facilitate its transportation is actually dominated by the oil marketing companies (OMCs).  If, as a sequel to the Budget, the Centre ensures that this infrastructure is made accessible or shareable with private airlines, which are willing to import ATF directly. This would not work to mutual advantage.
 
It is reported in the press that, according to Vivek Gour, MD and CEO of Air Works, the tax implications are a great burden on the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry.  He points out that the service tax amounts to 12.36% while VAT varies from 12%-15% (average) and Royalty charged by airport operators comes to 13% to 20%.  He feels that the MRO industry, which can hopefully provide for employing 12,000 to 15,000 skilled workers is giving away this business opportunity to Singapore, Sri Lanka and Nepal, who can offer the facility practically 30% to 35% cheaper than their counterparts in India.  
 
In the meantime, Karnataka State Government are trying woo Vistara to set up its hub in Bengaluru, as the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) has already crossed the 7 million passenger traffic and is growing at a fast pace. To entice Vistara to make Bengaluru its hub, like its distant cousin, Air Asia, talks are afoot with their CEO, Phee Teik Yeoh to tackle the high incidence of sales tax on ATF.
 
Vistara, like Air Kerala, has also made its intent known that, whenever the Civil Aviation Ministry comes out with the new regulations, replacing the 5/20 rule, they would seriously work on taking long haul trips to the West, which, according to their study accounts for as much as 70% of outbound Indian traffic goes to West. They aim to cover flights to reach New York and Washington DC, and, presumably stop at suitable locations in Europe.
 
Once the Budget provides some tangible relief to this industry, chances are that some airlines would come forward to "adopt" certain airports as their "own", establish their hubs, look at regional connectivity closely and help generate employment opportunities. The Budget could also provide some extra special facilities, in terms of taxes and the like, if private airlines come forward to build low cost terminals. This will enable the low cost carriers to use them on a regular basis, and serve the purpose well.
 
With the recent change in the ownership of SpiceJet, the aviation industry may be able to meet the growing needs of the air travellers and any relaxation that can be given in the budget would enable the industry to overcome the tax hurdles currently faced by them.
 
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

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