DHS Seeks to Rescind Employment Authorization for H-4 Spouses of H-1b Workers

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated in a May 2018 court filing that it plans to imminently publish a proposal to rescind its regulation permitting employment authorization for spouses of H-1B workers with approved permanent resident petitions. Since 2015, USCIS regulations have authorized these spouses, who are in H-4 status, to apply for employment authorization while awaiting availability of an immigrant visa. The delays stem from long waiting lists for visas for, principally, individuals born in India and China.

This H-4 employment regulation, adopted during the Obama Administration, is intended to allow H-4 spouses – mostly women – to continue to develop their own careers and help support their families. Often, H-4 spouses are themselves highly educated and have great potential to contribute to our society and economy. Many U.S. business and political leaders have urged retention of the H-4 spouse employment rule as critical to attracting and retaining top STEM talent, rather than accepting opportunities in competing economies.
Last month, a bipartisan group of 130 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen a letter urging her to maintain the current H-4 employment regulation. To date, she has not responded.