Reps. Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto and Zoe Lofgren of San Jose introduced legislation last week that retains work authorization for H-4 visa holders.
Called the H-4 Employment Protection Act, the bill prohibits the Trump administration from revoking the 2015 rule that enabled H-4 visas holders waiting for green cards to obtain employment authorization documents (work permits). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will start the formal process of rescinding the rule by the end of the year.
The dependent spouses of H-1B specialty occupation visa holders receive H-4 visas. Many H-4 visa holders are highly skilled professionals—mostly women from India. At the end of 2017, about 125,000 individuals had received authorization to work under the H-4 EAD rule.
Since last year when the Trump administration announced plans to do away with the H-4 EAD rule, families have lived under the stress of losing a source of income. And companies have sought alternatives for their employees. Ending the H-4 EAD rule may force many families to either split up or return to their home countries to the detriment of U.S. companies and the broader economy.
H-4 EAD Timeline
In court documents, DHS stated it would submit a proposal to end the H-4 EAD program to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review before Christmas. Doing so is the first step in the process of rescinding a rule. Even if that happens, USCIS will continue to issue work permits to eligible H-4 visa holders until at least early next year if not longer.
After the OMB review and any revisions get made, USCIS will publish the proposal in the Federal Register. Once published, the public will have at least 30 days to comment. USCIS will make any revisions to the proposed rule it deems necessary based on the comments. Then, USCIS will publish the final rule in the Federal Register with an effective date.
We urge companies and individuals to weigh in during the public comment period. We will keep you posted on developments and when the comment period is open. By then, a new Democratic-controlled House will be in office. Still, the H-4 Employment Protection Act faces an uphill battle getting through the Republican-controlled Senate.
We continue to recommend that working H-4 visa holders and their employers explore alternatives. Reach out to us if we can help determine the best path forward for your employees, yourself or your family. We have helped many clients transition from an H-4 visa with work authorization to another immigration status that offers more stability.
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