U.S. Company Wants Work Authorization for H-1B Spouses

money-in-hand-1037536-m.jpgOne of the most popular nonimmigrant (temporary) work visas in the United States is the H-1B visa. The H-1B visa is used for foreign workers who will be coming to the U.S. to fill speciality occupation positions for U.S. companies, which means that their job positions require at least a Bachelor's degree. You can learn more about how to qualify for the H-1B visa here.

There are many industries that employ large numbers of H-1B workers, with the information technology sector being one of the leaders in taking advantage of the H-1B program. One of the downsides to the program is that spouses of H-1B workers, who have H-4 visas, are currently prohibited from working in the U.S. even though many of them may hold Bachelor's or advanced degrees themselves, and thus could be contributing to the U.S. economy and workforce as well.

This prohibition on H-4s obtaining work authorization has become part of the immigration debate, with immigrant proponents stating that H-4s represent an untapped resource of skilled workers who could be contributing to the nation's economy, and immigrant opponents arguing against what they see as the inflation of the foreign workforce, which potentially takes away jobs from American citizens.

Recently, Intel, one of the world's largest computer companies and also one of the largest employers in the U.S., issued a media press statement indicating that the company is urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement a proposal that would allow certain H-4 visa holders to obtain work authorization. The Intel company filed nearly 1,500 new and extended H-1B visa applications in 2012 alone, a number that represents 3% of the business' American workforce.

According to the Intel press release, the company has always been highly interested in and put significant efforts into attracting skilled workers, both foreign and domestic. Since scientists, engineers, and information technology specialists are in the highest demand, allowing H-4 spouses to perform these services for Intel and other American companies would further develop groundbreaking and innovative technologies in the U.S., which would benefit many different sectors of the economy and create new jobs.
Intel is not alone in recognizing the potential benefits created by allowing H-4 spouses to work in the United States. As referenced above, the DHS is floating around the possibility of implementing a policy that would allow H-4s to have work authorization, provided their H-1B spouses had already taken certain steps to obtain U.S. permanent residence (a green card), such as filing an I-140 Petition through a U.S. employer sponsor.

In fact, Intel believes that the DHS should take its proposal even further and allow H-4 children of H-1B workers to receive work authorization, provided they are old enough to work in their respective states. The DHS has not yet commented on this aspect of Intel's idea, but the agency has also not specifically ruled it out either.

Unfortunately, immigration advocates and proponents alike are probably going to continue to wait for Congress to enact any immigration reform, since recent news from the Hill indicates Congress will not be taking action on this issue before the elections in November. In the meantime, it will likely be up to the DHS to enact policies like the H-4 work authorization initiative.

If you would like to learn more about work authorization in the U.S., contact our office today at 650-293-0270 to speak to an immigration attorney.

Additional Blog Posts

Applying for an Immigration DREAM is actually a Complex Process, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, August 16, 2012
Reform Bill Increases Immigration Opportunities for Afghan Nationals, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 23, 2013

H-1B Visas / by Michelle Gee