The highly contested H-4 EAD work ban affecting the spouses of H-1B visa holders is set to be published this month. An estimated 100,000 immigrants will no longer be authorized to work in the United States. The discussion comes as part of the Spring Regulatory Agenda, but no final determinations have been made yet.
Currently, there is a record-long backlog to get permanent residency status and the process can take more than a decade. Many individuals with H-4 EAD work authorization have advanced degrees and have held successful jobs in their home countries.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data indicates that Indian women make up more than 90 percent of H-4 beneficiaries. H-4 EADs grants qualified individuals the ability to work while their spouses wait to receive permanent residency.
The Department of Homeland Security has justified revoking H-4 EAD work authorizations by arguing it increases American citizens’ chances of obtaining jobs currently held by H-4 workers.
If introduced, the H-4 work ban will undergo a comment period after the final rule is published. The comment period may be open anywhere from 30-180 days or more. Silicon Valley tech giants plan to oppose the ban directly or via lobbying groups, perhaps both.
Several lawmakers from California have re-introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to protect H4-EAD work authorization.
Trump has indicated in a policy statement that he plans to move forward in shifting toward a merit-based immigration system. The new system would prioritize people with advanced degrees in specialized industries.
The recent ousting of USCIS Director Francis Cissna has left the federal department in disarray. It will be interesting to see how this policy battle will play out.