Will Trump Revoke Work Permits to H-4 Visa Holders? They Hope Not!

The Trump administration has announced to a federal court that it plans to revoke work permits to H-4 visa users. 

6 min read
The H-4 EAD allows those on their H-4 visas to work legally in the United States.

US President Donald Trump's latest attack on immigration came with the Trump administration's announcing to a federal court its plan to revoke the H-4 EAD (Employment Authorization Document), which grants work permits to those on their H-4 visas, within the next three months.

Now, it is important to mention that to fetch the H-4 EAD is difficult enough. According to what sources told The Quint, cross-checked with the official US immigration site, it takes several years for an H-4 visa holder to be granted the employment authorisation document.

The flaming question here is, will the Trump administration actually go forth with this move? And if they do, how will those holding this kind of visa be affected? They’ll be left jobless in an alien country, right?

The Quint spoke to a few Indians working in the US, on the merit of the H-4 EAD, to find out.


What is the H-4 EAD?

Simply put, the H-4 EAD allows those on their H-4 visas to work legally in the United States. Those with the H-4 visa usually include the spouses and children (under 21 years of age) of those on their H-1B visa.

The H-4 EAD was introduced as an executive order by former US President Barrack Obama on 26 May 2015, the main beneficiaries of which have been Indian married women looking to work in America.

However, those eligible for the H-4 EAD have to fill in a lot of eligibility checks.

According to the US Citizen and Immigration Services, the H-4 EAD "extended eligibility for employment authorisation to certain H-4 dependent spouses of certain H-1B nonimmigrants who have already started the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status."

Those eligible include:

  • H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants
  • Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) OR
  • Have been granted H-1B status in the United States under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (PDF) as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21).

Under the latter act, those containing H-1B visas seeking employment-based lawful permanent residence, can be considered eligible to work and live in the United States, beyond the six-year H-1B period of admission limitation.

Who Are the Main Beneficiaries of the H-4 EAD Visa?

According to a report by Congressional Research Service, which sourced information obtained from the USCIS:

Ninety-three percent of approved applications for H-4 employment authorisation were issued to individuals born in India, and five percent were issued to individuals born in China. Individuals born in all other countries combined make up the remaining two percent of approved applications.

Out of this, about 94 percent of those receiving employment authorisation are women.

On this basis, as of 25 December 2017, the USCIS had approved 1,26,853 applications for employment authorisation for H-4 visa holders.

"Which, when you look at the bigger picture, isn't a very overwhelming number," Gayatri, a media specialist (name changed), who up until very recently, was on her H-4 visa.

Think about it. Out of say 20 lakh (number used not specifically) people on their H-4 visas in the US, only about 1 lakh have their H-4 EAD visas approved. So even if the rule to revoke the H-4 EAD is implemented, it isn’t going to create a massive ripple effect for the “Buy American, Hire American” order.

However, she said, it would be quite a big blow for those on their H-4 EAD, who would have their jobs taken away.


Why is the H-4 EAD Being Opposed?

The motion to revoke the H-4 EAD was brought forth by Save Jobs USA,an anti-immigration group comprising the former employees of Southern California Edison, who claim that they are being displaced by H-1B workers.

One of the lawsuits against the H-4 EAD rule filed by Save Jobs USA. 
One of the lawsuits against the H-4 EAD rule filed by Save Jobs USA. 
(Photo courtesy: Twitter/@lauradfrancis)

The case was initially filed before President Donald Trump took office, but didn't receive much gusto until the fall of 2017, when the Trump administration first announced that it wished to do away with the system granting work-permits to the H-4 visa holders.

The scary part of the Trump administration taking up the initiative to revoke the system is that it might actually happen, says Gayatri.

"Whether it is three months or longer, remains to be soon, because this is something that's been pushed back for a while. However, it isn't something that's passed by the Congress like the H-1B, it's just an executive order implemented by Obama. So it can be revoked without too many challenges," she told The Quint.

I actually think that he is going to go ahead and revoke the H-4 EAD, because he wants to show that he’s doing something about immigration, ahead of the midterm elections later this year.

What's the Next Step For H-4 EAD Holders if System is Revoked?

If the H-4 EAD system is actually revoked under the Trump administration, then about one lakh people, mostly Indian women, will find themselves out of a job, and a rough path ahead to figure out the next step in their career.

To Deepika (name changed), who is working in a US-based research firm on agriculture, the future looks very scary.

Yes, it will be bad when the rule of revoking H-4 EAD comes in effect. Especially for me, I was initially working on H-1, about to process my green card and when the rule H-4 EAD came, I switched over to H-4 EAD. So now, when they revoke this, I will be out of job even though I’m fully qualified. 

Deepika does have reason to be concerned. According to what all the holders of the H-4 EAD told The Quint, they had little option to secure a career in the United States, if their work permits are revoked.

Image for representational purposes only.
Image for representational purposes only.
(Photo : iStockphoto)

On being asked about the next step in such a situation, Gayatri said those affected had three main options:

  • To go back to India and look for a job there
  • To move to other countries like Canada, where the visa rules aren't as stringent
  • Or to continue living as a dependant on one's spouse, without earning themselves

“A lot of the people are fine with the third option, because for H-4 visa holders to even receive the work permit takes so long that by the time they do, they already have had a ten-year (average) gap in their career," Gayatri said.

Should Indians Working Abroad be Concerned?

“If the H-4 EAD is revoked, it isn’t just the people on the H-4 visa that will be affected. Their spouses (who are working on the H-1B visa) are also affected, because they too then have to change their future plans accordingly,” said Rohit, an engineer working in Massachusetts on his H-1B visa.

However, most of the people that The Quint reached out to said revoking the H-4 EAD system wasn’t something the Trump administration could carry out in three months.

Anjali (name changed), a teacher and green-card holder, said:

There’s a whole legal council to go through for this process, which would take forever, and it’s the big corporations who hold the card, so Trump won’t have the last say.
With the possibility of the US tightening H-1B visa rules, panic has gripped Indian techies.
With the possibility of the US tightening H-1B visa rules, panic has gripped Indian techies.
(Photo: Rhythum Seth/The Quint)

“Trump comes up with a million new policies aimed at immigrants every day. He recently said he was going to go after the cocoa plantations in Columbia. I mean, what does he have against chocolate?!” Priyantha (name-changed), a journalist on her H-1B visa in New York, said.

According to some well-versed in the US immigration system, it would take a “minimum of 9 months from the date of deciding to revoke the work permit for H-4 visa holders.”

So, they say, there is no need to spread panic with half-information now.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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