What are the Recent Changes for H-4 Work Permits?
February 23, 2021
After years under threat, H-4 work permit rules that govern employment-based immigrant visa petitions are once again protected under the Biden administration. H1-B visa holders and their spouses are breathing a sigh of relief. The H-4 program governs immigrant permissions for qualifying spouses to accompany an H1-B holder, which allows specialized workers into the United States. The H-4 permissions were originally introduced in 2015 under President Obama but were in question during the Trump presidency because immigration the program was deemed detrimental to American jobseekers.
In 2019, immigration officials in the Trump administration introduced a plan known as Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization. This effort was withdrawn as one of President Biden’s first acts after taking office. The attack on the program fit with other anti-immigration tactics in the previous administration, but Biden’s ideological and practical support for the program signals the new administration’s commitment to support immigration programs for foreign workers and their families. Workers and their families experiencing employment issues concerning visas are encouraged to contact a knowledgeable visa petition lawyer for assistance.
What is the H1-B Program?
The H1-B program gives permission for certain highly skilled foreign individuals to work legally in the United States. An H1-B visa is an employment-based immigration authorization offered to individuals who bring specialized skills that are needed in the United States. These workers are accomplished professionals with distinctive skills of significant value to American employers and the overall economy.
As a result of the protections offered by the official employment authorization document, an H-4 work permit allows qualified individuals to join their spouse in the United States and hold jobs of their own. This arrangement not only seeks to keep immigrant families together, but also allows spouses to contribute to the U.S. economy.
The anti-immigration efforts to revoke the permissions in recent years threatened to reject the value brought by the H-4 holders, as well as the stability of the primary H1-B holder’s position in a specialty occupation, a distinction that signifies their specialized skills or expertise of particular value in the United States.
Without the spousal permissions granted under the H-4 designation, H1-B holders were reconsidering their career path in the United States. It is clear that the rejection of H-4 status would affect the contributions of the H-4 holders, but it would likely compromise the employment arrangement for the primary H1-B holder as well.
H-4 Workers in the United States Today
There are approximately 100,000 workers in the United States who hold H-4 employment visas. More than 93 percent of H-4 holders are women. Nearly 90 percent of them are Indian nationals. Many of these H-4 workers are highly trained and skilled professionals. If the program had been revoked, employers across the United States would lose the assets these workers brought to their businesses. In 2020, a total of 67,690 people applied to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for H-4 employment approval, including renewals. Only 52,470 were accepted.
Is the H-4 Immigrant Employment Program Safe Now?
Unfortunately, the H-4 program is still in danger in the courts. Despite the Biden administration’s efforts to protect the program from executive-level threats, the judicial branch of government still has an opportunity to weigh in. A pending ruling on the Save Jobs USA case can upend efforts to protect the program and the families it serves.
How Might the Save Jobs USA Case Affect H-4 Employment Authorization in the United States?
In the federal trial brought by Save Jobs USA against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a decision is still pending. The 2015 case centers on the claim by a group of American workers that immigrant employment authorizations cost them their jobs. The case was denied by the US District Court in the District of Columbia, which ruled that the group had no standing to bring the case.
A 2019 appeal sent the case back to a lower court. The D.C. circuit allowed the case to be heard. In May 2020, lawyers for the DHS urged the judge to keep the rules for H-4 work authorizations in place, arguing that the plaintiffs could not prove direct harm caused by the program. Many immigration rights advocates believe that the case is unlikely to find much footing against the H-4 program. It seems that the case will be decided in favor of the H-4 spousal permits. Until the case is resolved, however, the fate of the program is not entirely certain.
Philadelphia Visa Petition Lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC Help H-4 Workers Gain Legal Status for Employment
If you need assistance as you embark on the application process, or if you require legal representation as you appeal a denial of your request, the Philadelphia visa petition lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC are here to help. For a free consultation, call us at 215-496-0690 or complete our online form. With offices in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.