Get access to the exclusive HR Resources you need to succeed in 2018.
Sign up for free email newsletters and get more SHRM content delivered to your inbox.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 14 cities across the U.S. this fall.
Gain the skills you need to rise to the next level in your career. Jon us at SHRM's Leadership Development Forum, October 2-3 in Boston.
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
Nearly 100,000 H-4 dependent spouses of certain H-1B guest workers would be eligible for work authorization in the United States under a proposed rule, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced May 6, 2014.
Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a news teleconference that the rule change would help the U.S. attract and keep world-class talent working in the United States.
“The proposals announced today will encourage highly skilled, specially trained individuals to remain in the United States and continue to support U.S. businesses and the growth of the U.S. economy,” he said.
The new rule is the latest executive action President Barack Obama’s administration has announced as efforts to move immigration reform in Congress have stalled.
The proposal would provide work authorization to the H-4 spouses of H-1B guest workers seeking lawful permanent residence through employment and who either:
In addition to the initial 97,000 individuals who would be immediately eligible for work authorization under the proposed rule, DHS expects that around 30,000 would be eligible each year thereafter.
The Council for Global Immigration has worked to expand spousal work authorization opportunities under immigration laws and at the agency for decades, remarked Rebecca Peters, director and counsel for legislative affairs at the Council. “The spouse of E visa or L visa holders can work under today’s laws, but the spouse of an H-1B cannot, so this regulation is a good start,” she said.
“The new proposal is certainly welcome at a time when Congress will not take action on immigration reform,” said Tahmina Watson, immigration attorney and owner of Watson Immigration Law in Seattle. “The U.S. will now gain a generally high-skilled group of people who can start contributing to the economy immediately. This is a great start, but I hope the rule will be extended to all H-4 spouses of H-1Bs in the future.”
Blanket Extension Next?
DHS originally had considered extending work authorization to all H-4 spouses, but ultimately decided to limit that authorization to those who intend to remain in the U.S. permanently, the agency stated in its latest regulatory agenda.
“When we asked our members last year whether they’ve lost recruiting opportunities because spouses of H-1Bs are unable to get work authorization, nearly half replied that they have lost such opportunities,” said Justin Storch, manager of agency liaison at the Council for Global Immigration. “Over 30 percent have actually lost existing H-1B employees for the same reason,” he added.
The employment-based green card backlog in some cases requires immigrants to wait dozens of years for their visas, and the current regulations prohibit their spouses from working during that time.
“This rule will eliminate this problem for at least some of those H-1B employees,” said Storch. “We will continue to work toward work authorization eligibility for all H-4 spouses, whether that solution comes from the agencies or through legislation.”
The proposed rule will be subject to a 60-day public comment period once it is published in the Federal Register. DHS plans to act quickly following the close of the comment period to review the comments and publish final rules, Mayorkas said.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him at @SHRMRoy
SHRM Online Global HR page
Keep up with the latest Global HR news
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Apply by October 19
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies