An H-1B visa under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act generally permits non-immigrant employees to get employed in a specific profession in the U.S. Under this system, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also issue H-4 visas to immediate family members (spouses and children under 21 years) of H-1B visa holders.

For many years, however, since the H4 visa program inception, H-4 holders were provided with any work authorization and could not be employed or own businesses. This changed on May 26, 2015, when USCIS passed the “Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses” rule. The Obama administration effectively instituted the H4 EAD (Employment Authorization Document) under this rule and allowed the spouses of H-1B workers to work themselves provided they meet certain preconditions.

However, recently, as part of President’s Trump “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to revoke the H-4 employment authorization document used by H-4 holders, and this could be effected between March and June 2020.

The Impact of Banning H4 Work Permits

DHS projects that there would be two primary impacts that DHS can quantify and estimate: the cost-savings increasing to forgone future filings by some H-4 dependent spouses, and labor turnover costs that employers of H-4 employees could incur when their employees’ EADs are fired. Some U.S. citizens would benefit from this proposed law by having a better opportunity at obtaining jobs that some of the foreigners of the H-4 workers presently hold, as the proposed policy would no longer permit H-4 workers to enter the labor market early. The later is the major bone of contention in the lawsuit between Save Jobs USA v DHS.

If the plan to ban dependents of H-1B visa holders from working is passed, it could put about 100,000 people out of jobs. Some adverse effects that could occur if this happens include quarantining H4 visa holders socially, straining the family’s financial resources, raising domestic tensions, and possibly hurting U.S. employers. However, since the announcement of the proposed banning of H4 work permits, there have been many uproars from current holders of this visa who do not want the current rule that permits them to work to change. Some shared their stories about how they were lonely, depressed, and felt like they were wasting their time before the 2015 policy that permitted them to work. If H4 EAD is banned, these individuals (most of whom women) would still be residing in the U.S. and legally barred from being employed or running businesses. If they lose their jobs, this will hurt their families and communities, and on U.S. employers will also be forced to fill all of these positions that are suddenly empty on short notice. This could seriously harm businesses if they find it difficult to replace the that left as early as possible.

There is no gainsaying that the consequence of the ban will be dire. The best course of action is to renew your license just in case the ban goes through. It is cold comfort, but at least your license will be valid after the ban comes into place and you will be work till it expires.

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  • October 20th, 2019
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