Employment Authorization Benefits for H-4 Spouses at Risk

Qualifying dependent spouses of certain H-1B visa holders (H-4 spouse) have enjoyed the benefits of applying for work authorization since 2015 when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented a rule supported by the Obama administration permitting them to obtain employment authorization documents.

Since then, USCIS has approved more than 100,000 work authorization applications for H-4 spouses. However, the "Buy American, Hire American" initiative signed under the Trump administration may soon bring an end to the popular benefit, and this would not be the first time the rule has been challenged.

Prior to the Trump administration, Save Jobs USA sued the Department of Homeland Security in April 2015, claiming that many H-4 visa holders were direct economic competitors, and implementation of the rule to grant them work authorization would severely undermine the ability of the U.S. worker to obtain employment.

Nonetheless, many U.S. employers, particularly those in regions or industries experiencing severe labor shortages, have benefited from the increase in qualified workers, many of whom are highly skilled and well-educated. Foreign nationals and employers who want to pursue employment authorization for an H-4 spouse need to act now before the rule is repealed, which is certain to soon become a reality.

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