H-4 Visa Holders With Work Authorization Are Overwhelmingly Women from India

A new report released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on May 11 has stated that an overwhelming beneficiaries of the H-4 visa program with work authorization are women from India. In total, almost 85,000 women and 6,000 men currently have H-4 EAD. More than 33,000 women and 2,000 men have successfully applied for extensions.

The data was released in response to a congressional query and reports numbers from when H-4 EAD was first implemented in 2015 – by the Obama administration – to the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1, 2017 and ended Dec. 25, 2017.

The H-4 class of visa is given to the spouses of foreign workers, who are employed in the US under an H-1B visa. Until the Obama administration changed the law, H-4 visa holders were not permitted to work full-time. As of December, roughly 130,000 people on H-4 visas had obtained their employment permit. The 2015 law change was challenged in court by groups such as Save Jobs USA, who argued that American workers faced increased competition from H-4 candidates for a limited number of jobs.

In FY 2015, the first year of the program, 24,791 H-4 EADs were approved from Indian applicants; China had 711 applicants, and the Philippines 91. In FY 2016, more than 31,000 applications were approved, including 28,660 from India, 1,564 from China, and 248 from the Philippines.

In FY 2017, 27, 275 applications were approved overall; 24,779 from India, 1,832 from China, and 204 from the Philippines. For the first quarter of FY 2018, 6,800 applications were approved, with applicants from India receiving 6,103.

The Trump administration has ramped up its efforts to keep jobs in the hands of American workers, confirming the end of a right for spouses of foreign workers to find full-time employment. An announcement last month that spouses on H-4 visas will be prevented from working will overwhelmingly affect Indian women, according to data from the Congressional Research Service of the US Congress.

Trump’s reversal of an Obama-era decision that allowed H-4 visa holders – since 2015 – to work is part of a larger suite of moves against immigrants, which includes a ban on travellers from five predominantly Muslim countries and a plan to wall the United States off from Mexico.

The announcement will increase the ability of the US government’s immigration agency and its justice department to share information and “to stop employers from discriminating against US workers by favouring foreign visa workers,” John M. Gore, an acting assistant attorney general, said on Friday.

The official statement noted that a law barred companies from preferentially hiring foreign workers, who are often cheaper to pay. “An employer that prefers to hire temporary foreign visa workers over available, qualified US workers may be discriminating in violation of this law,” it said.

The rule will come in response to a lawsuit by Save Jobs USA, which claims that work authorization for certain H-1B spouses robs American workers of jobs. The administration has asked for several extensions, most recently last February when it asked the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to grant it more time to review the economic impact of revoking the program.

The U.S. workforce currently has more than 102 million employees and is at what economists term full employment. The American Immigration Council issued a statement March 26 supporting the continuation of the H-4 EAD program. The non-partisan organization stated that allowing spouses to work brings the U.S. in line with other countries competing to attract talented foreign nationals.

H-1B workers often have a spouse or family to consider, noted AIC, adding that allowing spouses to work means higher retention rates of H-1B employees. “If a spouse retains the option of being employed, the U.S. employer can provide a more appealing and competitive job offer,” stated AIC, adding that highly-educated immigrants are more likely to choose a country where immediate family members are welcome.

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