H-4 Dependent Visas in Limbo


As part of former President Obama’s executive actions on immigration during his final term in office, the Department of Homeland Security implemented an initiative permitting eligible H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders to apply for employment authorization. (“Eligible” H-4 visa holders comprise those who have had their Form I-140 approved or whose spouses have had their H-1B statuses extended for more than six years.) By facilitating lawful employment for an estimated 180,000 spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants initially, and more than 50,000 annually thereafter, the rule, which went into effect on May 26, 2015, sought to promote entrepreneurship, mitigate families’ economic hardship during visa waiting periods, attract investment, and tap into a dormant tax base.

Originally filed preemptively in April 2015, litigation now making its way through the District of Columbia Court of Appeals alleged that the Obama administration’s H-4 rule had caused three legal injuries to native-born workers. According to the suit, the federal government had:

  1. Failed to protect native-born workers from foreign labor;

  2. Increased the number of economic competitors to their detriment; and

  3. Simultaneously provided benefits to these competitors.

Current Developments

Picking up the case where President Obama’s Department of Justice had left it, the Trump administration was scheduled to file a brief last month to continue defending the H-4 rule. Instead, on February 1, Trump’s Justice Department asked the Court to delay proceedings for a sixty-day period, until April 2, in order to “allow incoming leadership personnel adequate time to consider the issues.”

Immigrant advocacy organizations—including Immigration Voice, which filed a motion this week to intervene in the suit—have raised concerns about the Trump administration’s action. In light of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s past critical statements, these groups and current H-4 beneficiaries alike fear that the request to hold proceedings in abeyance points to President Trump’s eventual elimination of the Obama rule. If this were to occur, H-4 spouses stand to lose personal investment monies in new businesses and lawful sources of income for their families, and the U.S. will consequently be unable to reap the benefits of these visa holders’ skills and economic activities.

Our Thoughts

Over the last twenty years, our firm has assisted thousands of H-1B visa holders and their spouses obtain lawful status and employment, believing that the benefits of their work redound to the nation at large. And it is our intention to spend the next twenty years helping even more. Zhang & Associates will continue to monitor the fluid situation and keep clients and readers apprised of any new developments that may affect these visa holders.

Founded in 1996, Zhang & Associates, P.C. offers legal services to clients nationwide in all aspects of U.S immigration law. We have successfully handled thousands of immigration cases.

At Zhang & Associates, P.C., our attorneys and supporting professionals are committed to providing high-quality immigration and non-immigration visa services. We specialize in NIW, EB-1, PERM, and I-485 cases. In the past twenty years, we have successfully helped thousands of clients get green cards. If you plan to apply for a green card, please send your CV to Attorney Jerry Zhang (info@hooyou.com) for a free evaluation.

Zhang & Associates, P.C.

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