Community Guide on H‑4 EAD Rescission

In part­ner­ship with Asian Amer­i­cans Advanc­ing Jus­tice (AAJC), Nation­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Wom­en’s Forum (NAPAWF), and Immi­grant Legal Resource Cen­ter (IRLC) we oppose the upcom­ing rescis­sion of the H‑4 work autho­riza­tion rule.

Oppose the Rescission of the H-4 Work Authorization Rule That Would Harm Nearly 90,000 Asian Immigrant Women. Please see here for the full H-4 EAD guide.

In Decem­ber 2017, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty announced its intent to revoke Employ­ment Autho­riza­tion Doc­u­ments (EAD) for H‑4 visa hold­ers. A Notice of Pro­posed Rule­mak­ing is expect­ed to be pub­lished in the com­ing months. We encour­age peo­ple to oppose this sense­less, cru­el and unnec­es­sary rule. This rule will strip work autho­riza­tion from near­ly 90,000 women, forc­ing many to choose between work, fam­i­ly and their home. Below is a descrip­tion of the rule and it’s dis­pro­por­tion­ate effect on AAPI women.

What is an H-4 visa?

The H‑4 visa is a visa issued to spous­es and depen­dent chil­dren of H‑1B visa hold­ers, who are for­eign work­ers employed in spe­cial­ty occu­pa­tions requir­ing rel­e­vant bachelor’s or advanced degrees. Since 1997, more than 1.7 mil­lion indi­vid­u­als have received H‑4 visas. Approx­i­mate­ly 136,000 indi­vid­u­als received H‑4 sta­tus in FY 2017. Accord­ing to the State Depart­ment, the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of these indi­vid­u­als are of South Asian descent; specif­i­cal­ly, in FY 2017, approx­i­mate­ly 86% of those who received H‑4 visa sta­tus were from South Asian countries.

What is the H-4 visa work authorization rule?

In 2015, after sev­er­al years of advo­ca­cy by com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, includ­ing local South Asian Women’s Orga­ni­za­tions , the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) issued a rule allow­ing cer­tain H‑4 depen­dent spous­es of H‑1B visa hold­ers to legal­ly seek employ­ment in the US. Once an H‑1B hold­er is spon­sored for employ­ment-based law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dent (LPR) status–or a green card–his or her H‑4 visa hold­ing spouse may apply for work authorization.

As of Decem­ber 2017, over 90,000 H‑4 visa hold­ers have been approved for work autho­riza­tion under the DHS H‑4 rule. How­ev­er, many H‑4 visa hold­ers remain inel­i­gi­ble for work autho­riza­tion as the rule only allows spous­es of per­sons with an approved per­ma­nent immi­grant peti­tion to work, which con­tin­ues to exclude thou­sands of oth­ers. Even this lim­it­ed vic­to­ry is now under attack under the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion, which has pro­posed to rescind the hard fought work authorization.

How would the rule impact AAPI immigrant women?

H‑4 visa hold­ers at risk of los­ing work autho­riza­tion are pre­dom­i­nant­ly women from Asian coun­tries. Accord­ing to the Unit­ed States Cit­i­zen­ship and Immi­gra­tion Ser­vices (USCIS), 95% of H‑4 visa hold­ers who have secured work autho­riza­tion are women and at least 98% are from Asian coun­tries, the vast major­i­ty from India (93%) and Chi­na (5%).

How long will these AAPI women be without work authorization?

For some H‑4 visa hold­ers it often takes 6 to 8 years to obtain a green card, but H‑4 visa hold­ers from India are stuck in H‑4 sta­tus indef­i­nite­ly. This is due to long back­logs in the avail­abil­i­ty of employ­ment-based green cards for Indi­an nation­als, so if Indi­an H‑4 spous­es lose their work autho­riza­tion, they may nev­er get to work in the U.S.

Why should you oppose the rescission of the H-4 Work Authorization Rule?

H‑4 depen­dents must be allowed to work for numer­ous rea­sons, rang­ing from their abil­i­ty to con­tribute to the house­hold to the val­ue they pro­vide in shar­ing their tal­ents in our econ­o­my. Addi­tion­al­ly, these indi­vid­u­als deserve the right to use and enhance the skills they have learned, be finan­cial­ly self-suf­fi­cient, thrive men­tal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly, and pur­sue their dreams.

Lack of employ­ment under­mines the agency and dig­ni­ty of depen­dent spous­es With­out work per­mits, H‑4 depen­dent spous­es, many of whom also have advanced degrees, are not only unable to con­tribute to the eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty of their families–they also suf­fer from feel­ings of being deval­ued, depres­sion, and iso­la­tion. Revok­ing work autho­riza­tion for H‑4 visa hold­ers would force them to return to what many call the “gold­en cage” or “depres­sion visa” while also being depen­dent on their spous­es’ employ­ment for immi­gra­tion sta­tus. With­out work autho­riza­tion, H‑4 visa hold­ers expe­ri­ence a lack of dig­ni­ty and agency over their well-being and future.

The rule would harm H‑4 spous­es’ long-term career prospects Under the new rule, H‑4 visa hold­ers who have been employed since the 2015 rule went into effect would have to seek re-employ­ment by obtain­ing their own H‑1B visas, which are already in short sup­ply. More­over, jobs that spon­sor H‑1B visa hold­ers are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly in STEM fields, which are known to be par­tic­u­lar­ly hos­tile towards women, espe­cial­ly women of col­or, in hir­ing and work environments.

Rescind­ing work autho­riza­tion fails to acknowl­edge the eco­nom­ic loss incurred by pre­vent­ing H‑4s from work­ing. Many of these indi­vid­u­als might be inter­est­ed in estab­lish­ing a small busi­ness or found­ing an inno­v­a­tive com­pa­ny, yet are effec­tive­ly barred from doing so because of our immi­gra­tion system.

H‑4 visa hold­ers with­out employ­ment are less empow­ered to leave abu­sive spous­es Stud­ies have shown that immi­gra­tion sta­tus pre­vents a large per­cent­age of immi­grant women from leav­ing abu­sive rela­tion­ships, and that abusers often use immi­gra­tion-relat­ed tac­tics. Work autho­riza­tion for H‑4 visa hold­ers who rely on their spous­es for immi­gra­tion sta­tus and finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty can help pro­vide them the resources to leave abu­sive rela­tion­ships. Although cer­tain abused H‑4 spous­es can apply for work autho­riza­tion under the Immi­gra­tion and Nation­al­i­ty Act (INA), as amend­ed by the Vio­lence Against Women Act (VAWA), this sta­tus can be very dif­fi­cult to obtain: depen­dent spous­es are less like­ly to report abuse, much less pro­duce evi­dence of abuse in the form of police reports, med­ical records, and oth­er documents.

Rescind­ing work autho­riza­tion lim­its the suc­cess of H‑1B work­ers and their H‑4 depen­dents The pro­posed rule lim­its the suc­cess of H‑1B work­ers, their fam­i­lies, and our nation’s eco­nom­ic growth. The abil­i­ty of H‑4 depen­dents to con­tribute to their house­hold and our econ­o­my is crit­i­cal to the long-term suc­cess of H‑1B work­ers. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, indi­vid­u­als are bet­ter able to suc­ceed with the sup­port of their loved ones and the eco­nom­ic impact of hav­ing a mul­ti-income house­hold can­not go unnoted.

To rescind this rule and ter­mi­nate work autho­riza­tion would force many spous­es and chil­dren of H‑1B visa hold­ers to return to their pre­vi­ous per­son­al and eco­nom­ic hard­ships, poten­tial­ly place them at risk of iso­la­tion and abuse, and remove sig­nif­i­cant eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits to the U.S. economy.

What can you do to stop this harmful proposal?

The Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty is expect­ed to revoke work autho­riza­tion for H‑4 visa hold­ers in the com­ing months. How­ev­er, the admin­is­tra­tion must first pub­lish the pro­posed new reg­u­la­tion and invite pub­lic com­ments before the new pol­i­cy goes into effect. Dur­ing this 30 or 60-day com­ment peri­od, the gen­er­al pub­lic is invit­ed to sub­mit in writ­ing their oppo­si­tion to the rule and how it would impact them.

We encour­age immi­grants, advo­cates, and friends and fam­i­ly of H‑4 visa hold­ers to sub­mit com­ments express­ing oppo­si­tion to the pro­posed rule and call­ing for work autho­riza­tion for H‑4 visa hold­ers to be left intact.

We call on Mem­bers of Con­gress to speak pub­licly in sup­port of the abil­i­ty of H‑4 visa hold­ers to work, to advo­cate with the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty to leave the H‑4 work autho­riza­tion rule intact, and to sup­port leg­isla­tive efforts that pro­tect H‑4 visa hold­ers and their families.