UPDATE: Some H‑4s to be Eligible for Work Authorization

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Feb­ru­ary 24, 2015

Con­tact: Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran

SAALT applauds the Unit­ed States Cit­i­zen­ship and Immi­gra­tion Ser­vices (USCIS) and the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) for announcing this morn­ing that DHS will extend work autho­riza­tion, effective May 26, 2015, to some H‑4 depen­dent spous­es of H‑1B visa hold­ers who are seek­ing employ­ment-based law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dent (LPR) sta­tus. An esti­mat­ed 179,600 H‑4 depen­dent spous­es will be eli­gi­ble to apply for employ­ment autho­riza­tion in the first year of imple­men­ta­tion, and an esti­mat­ed 55,000 H‑4 spous­es will be eli­gi­ble to apply in sub­se­quent years.

Not all H‑4 depen­dent spous­es will be eli­gi­ble to work under the new rule. Eli­gi­ble indi­vid­u­als include cer­tain H‑4 depen­dent spous­es of H‑1B non­im­mi­grants who:

  • Are the prin­ci­pal ben­e­fi­cia­ries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • Have been grant­ed H‑1B sta­tus under sec­tions 106(a) and (b) of the Amer­i­can Com­pet­i­tive­ness in the Twen­ty-first Cen­tu­ry Act of 2000 as amend­ed by the 21st Cen­tu­ry Depart­ment of Jus­tice Appro­pri­a­tions Autho­riza­tion Act. The Act per­mits H‑1B non­im­mi­grants seek­ing law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dence to work and remain in the Unit­ed States beyond the six-year lim­it on their H‑1B sta­tus.

Numer­ous South Asians enter the U.S. through the H‑1B visa pro­gram, and fig­ures from the State Depart­ment 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 U.S., which not only impacts their fam­i­ly income and sus­tain­abil­i­ty, but also dimin­ish­es their abil­i­ty to expand upon pro­fes­sion­al skills.

SAALT has called on USCIS to allow all employ­ment autho­riza­tion 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 wel­comed first-step that will dra­mat­i­cal­ly help some fam­i­lies in the U.S., 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 autho­riza­tion.