H-4 Visa Holders to Get Work Permits: A Review of What May Occur

Attention H-4 Visa Holders:

Yesterday the United States Department of Homeland Security made a huge announcement.

A number of proposed federal rules will be published.

The most important one that appears to be imminent deals with spouses of H-1B visa holders.

These H-1B husbands and wives, called H-4 Visa Holders in the Immigration law, may be about to finally receive work permits.

Out of Washington DC comes language “that will make the United States more attractive to talented foreign entrepreneurs and other high-skill immigrants who will contribute substantially to the U.S. economy, create jobs, and enhance American innovative competitiveness.”

But, the anticipated regulations most notably include:

  • a set of rules giving employment authorization to husbands and wives of certain high-skill workers on  H-1B visas (known as H-4 Visa Holders – who currently and for many, many years – have not been able to work in the United States)
  • enhancing opportunities for outstanding professors and researchers

To understand the significance of this H-4 Visa Holder change, one need only look at how many years we have been waiting for it.

H-1B visa holders include database administrators, software engineers, and programmer analysts, but also careers as diverse as architects, college professors, schoolteachers, dentists, scientists, mathematicians, and lawyers.

Many of their spouses wish to work in careers just as important but as H-4 Visa Holders, they have been unable to secure employment authorization. This inability to obtain work permission is a waste of valuable resources that help our economy and account for advancements in medicine, science and technology, thus improving the life of Americans. 

H-4 Visa Holders have often been forced to sit by idly, frustrated by a system that has allowed other work visa spouses to receive papers to be lawfully employed.

With 85,000 H-1Bs living in the United States, many of whom are married, the allowance of a work permit to their H-4 Visa husbands and wives will be a game changer.


Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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