Under current regulations, DHS does not list H-4 dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21) of H-1B Visa beneficiaries to work in the United States. By preventing H-4 spouses from working, the H-1B often experience personal and economic hardship, especially as they remain in the U.S. longer and longer awaiting USCIS adjudication of Green Card cases. This has a dramatic effect on the economy as U.S. employers find retention of these highly educated and highly skilled nonimmigrant workers problematic. According to the Federal Register, the Daily Journal of the United States Government, “Retaining highly skilled persons who intend to acquire lawful permanent residence is important to the United States given the contributions of these individuals to the U.S. economy, including advances in entrepreneurial and research and development endeavors, which correlate highly with overall economic growth and job creation.”
In response to this potential economic threat, The Department of Homeland Security proposed to extend work authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses. Work authorization would be limited to the spouses of H-1Bs who are in the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment. Thus, only those nonimmigrants with an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) or who have been granted an extension of their H-1B status because their Green Card process has been stalled by the backlog in USCIS processing would benefit from H-4 work authorization. The goal of this regulatory change is to attract and retain high-skilled foreign workers to fill key roles necessary to spur the U.S. economy.