U.S. Law Center

H-4 spouses may lose work authorization sooner than expected

The United States is a country of citizens, immigrants and non-immigrants. With few exceptions, if you are a citizen or legal permanent resident, you may work for essentially any employer. That is, of course, not the case if you have many types of non-immigrant status.  For example, if you have an H-1B visa, you may only perform certain job duties at a specific place of employment. Spouses of those with H-1B status usually receive H-4 visas. Since 2015, if you have H-4 status and meet certain requirements, you may apply for a work permit. 

For more than a year, the work eligibility of H-4 visa holders has been shaky. That is, in early spring of 2017, the Trump Administration announced it was reviewing government policy that allows those with H-4 visas to work in the United States. Unfortunately, though, a notice of proposed rulemaking sets an H-4 employment ban on track to become law. If you have either an H-1B or H-4 visa, you should know how the proposed rule may affect your life. 

Notice of proposed rulemaking 

On May 22, 2019, the federal government notified the public that it intends to disallow H-4 visa holders from applying for employment authorization documents. The notice allows interested individuals and organizations to submit comments related to the rule. While governmental leaders have talked about removing work eligibility for H-1B spouses for some time, the notice of proposed rulemaking is a significant step to stopping H-4 work authorization. Still, if may take a year or longer for an official rule to become law. 

Planning for the future 

If you are like many H-4 visa holders, you rely on your work authorization to support yourself and your family. As such, if you are unable to legally work in the United States, you may need to plan for the future. Before you decide to leave the country, though, explore the consequences of doing so. You may also have other avenues for obtaining independent work authorization. 

Times are not necessarily easy for visa holders who live and work in the United States. Because working without authorization can have serious consequences, keep a close eye on the proposed rule if you have a work permit pursuant to your H-4 status.

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