Proposed Changes to H-4 Visas Could Impact Families

Recently proposed changes to immigration policies will undoubtedly impact many individuals currently in the United States with H1-B and H-4 visas. While many individuals are already familiar with H1-B visas, which allow U.S. employers to hire highly-skilled professionals for specialized jobs that are difficult to fill exclusively with U.S. citizens, fewer may be familiar with H-4 visas.

H-4 visas are issued to immediate family members—spouses and children under the age of 21—of H1-B visa holders. Typically, H-4 visa holders are highly-educated, dependent spouses, usually women. When the visa program was first launched, H-4 visa holders were unable to work in the United States lawfully. In essence, this guaranteed that families with H1-B visa recipients would remain single-income families, regardless of the H-4 spouse’s ability to contribute to the workforce. This changed in 2015 when the Department of Homeland Security granted certain H-4 visa holders the ability to apply for employment authorization.

In a recent reversal, the Department of Homeland Security issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to overturn the 2015 rule that allowed certain H-4 visa holders to apply for employment authorization. The official process to repeal the rule still needs to be initiated. However, this change will undoubtedly hinder the ability of many families, including those of individuals who intend to apply for permanent status in the United States, to maximize their contributions both to the U.S. economy and to their households.

The proposed changes to the H4 visa category are but a snapshot of the myriad of immigration changes that have been discussed by the current administration. If you or a loved one has a question or concern regarding your current immigration status, please do not hesitate to contact Gilda Arroyo to discuss same.