H-4 Employment Authorization under DHS Scrutiny

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

November 27, 2017
H4 work permit graphic with statue of liberty
H-4 visa allows employment, more competition for jobless Americans.

Fewer employment-based visas are a boon to American workers. The news then that the Department of Homeland Security will end work authorization for H-4 visas holders should open up jobs for the unemployed and under-employed.

DHS officials have leaked information that they’re in the early stages of withdrawing H-4 work permission. The next step is to publish the proposed rule in the federal register, allow a 60-day public comment period, and then put the new policy into effect.

The H-4 visa category is granted to H-1B visa holders’ spouses and children under 21. Historically, the H-4 did not include work permission although other privileges were allowed like obtaining driver’s licenses and opening bank accounts. But in 2014, President Obama though an executive order decreed that H-4s formerly legally prohibited from employment, could indeed work. Since President Obama’s order, 78,000 H-4s have been issued. Last year, about 130,000 H-1B spouses and minor children entered the U.S. H-4s have greater employment flexibility than their spouses whose visas are controlled by their employers, and they can therefore compete with a wider swath of American job seekers.

Capitol Hill insiders predict that immigration lawyers will mount vigorous opposition. New York immigration lawyer Cyrus Metha Tweeted: “We can challenge rationale for rescinding H-4 work permit rule if Trump administration disregards credible legal basis and data that supported prior H-4 rule.”

Lost in the legal harangue over H-4s is adverse effect hundreds of thousands of work permits given to foreign nationals has on American workers.

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