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H-1B holders’ spouses’ ability to work remains uncertain

Workers who come to California to live and work in Riverside County under an H-1B visa often bring their families along with them. Spouses and children of those workers are eligible to receive an H-4 visa. For a long time, the spouses of H-1B workers who held H-4 visas were not allowed to seek employment in the United States. However, in 2015, the Obama administration made it possible for such spouses to obtain authorization for employment as long as they met certain eligibility requirements, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

That ability to work is now in question as the Trump administration has the rule under review. Money Magazine reports that the federal government was originally given 60 days to review the rule and has now requested an additional 180 days.

Those opposed to granting H-4 spouses the ability to work argue that it takes jobs away from American workers. The government review of the rule stems from a lawsuit by a group that supports saving jobs for U.S. employees. An opposing motion was filed by a group that represents H-4 visa holders.

This has the potential to affect a great many H-4 spouses. Indeed, the number of H-4 holders is on the rise in recent years. 80,015 H-4 visas were given out in 2012, compared to 131,051 in 2016. Applications for employment authorization can still be submitted while the rule is under review. However, should the rule be rescinded, anyone who was previously granted an authorization to work would have that ability revoked. 

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