H-4 Visa Holders Approved for Employment; More American Job Displacement

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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.

March 9, 2015

The Obama administration has delivered another setback to the more than 90 million Americans not attached to the workforce. On February 24, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that, effective May 26, certain spouses of H-1B visa holders can apply for work authorization. Their current visa, the H-4, prohibits employment. “Certain” is USCIS’s deceptive word; most who apply will be approved.

H-1B and H4 visas
Approved! H-4 visa holders soon to compete for increasingly scarce U.S. jobs.

Initially, when the spouses agreed to come to the United States, they signed federal documents acknowledging that their H-4 visa would bar them from employment. At the time, that restriction was perfectly satisfactory to them. But once in the U.S., immigration lawyers took the H-4’s case to the pliant Obama White House, and to no one’s surprise, the spouses will soon be working. USCIS estimates that nearly 180,000 people will be able to apply for employment authorization within the first year, and 55,000 in subsequent years.

Most H-4s will not be employed in Silicon Valley, however. Since IT companies didn’t sponsor them, and therefore don’t control their destinies, they’re not attractive to most IT employers. The H-4s will mostly be looking for jobs where they can find them – in retail, office, healthcare and the service industries. Those are the exact jobs that many unemployed workers, high school or college kids and part-time homemakers would be eager to take to generate much needed income. They’re out of luck now.

Expanded work authorization for foreign-born nationals is consistent with Obama’s goal of displacing Americans. Since 2009, the economy has created 9.3 million jobs, but 18 million immigrants have arrived during the same period.

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