Skip to main content

Future of Work Permits for H-1B Spouses

In May 2015, the Obama administration extended eligibility for work authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of certain H-1B nonimmigrants. The new regulations permitted H-4 spouses to apply for employment authorization only if their H-1B spouse is (1) the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, or (2) has been granted H-1B status under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21). Under AC21, certain H-1B workers seeking lawful permanent residence may be granted an extension beyond the six-year H-1B period of admission. For more information on applying for an H-4 EAD, please visit our website.

It has recently been revealed that the Trump administration plans to end granting work permits to H-4 dependent spouses. This comes as no surprise as many believed the President would eventually attempt to unravel the program. Last year alone, 130,000 spouses and children H-1B visa holders came to the U.S. in H-4 status. Before the H-4 work permit was created, dependent spouses were not allowed to work and were not issued a Social Security card. For many, this was a big deal. The H-4 work permit provided relief to families that could not support themselves on the H-1B beneficiary’s salary alone, and rescinding this policy could have a major economic impact. Without this needed financial support, many H-1B visa holders may be forced to leave the U.S., and for companies like Facebook that “depend” on the visa to fill company positions, this could be troublesome.

Despite the rumors, however, any change to this program will not be easy, and it will not happen overnight. To rid H-4 dependent spouses of EAD eligibility, the Trump administration will need to change the law. This would involve a lengthy notice-and-comment period, which is a requirement that has already limited other Trump administration efforts to quickly revoke Obama-era rules.    

If you are interested in applying for an H-1B Visa or for an H-4 Employment Authorization Document, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!