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H-4 visa holders’ spouses face legal employment challenges

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2017 | U.S. Immigration Law |

Maryland immigrants who hope that their H-1B visas will make their spouses eligible to apply for work permits may have to wait to see if the government places obstacles in their way. In April 2017, the Department of Homeland Security asked for 180 days to continue its review of an Obama-era rule that let these spouses apply to work under certain circumstances. Although the original rule dates back to 2015, the Department of Justice under President Donald Trump hasn’t determined whether it should remain in place.

News sources suggest that if the rule gets repealed, the changes could have a disproportionate impact on immigrant populations from South Asian countries. With most H-4 work permits going to these individuals, the transition might also affect those who have already applied for and received permission to hold jobs. Since 2012, when just over 80,000 permits were granted, successful visa applications have risen steadily, reaching some 131,051 H-4s issued in 2016.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the claim that existing H-4 rules are detrimental to American workers, but it remains unclear how his DOJ might influence the DHS decision-making process over time. Advocacy groups have also gone back and forth in their opinions about the rule, with one even filing a lawsuit to challenge it.

Those who seek different kinds of visa status may find it necessary to rethink their plans in response to changing laws. Individuals who want to work must satisfy a number of requirements to do so, but legal rulings and government actions have the potential to jeopardize their achievements regardless whether they fulfilled all of their obligations. Legal advisers may be able to offer insights into which programs and immigration paths are the most stable in shifting political climates.