The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) under the Trump Administration may implement new guidelines terminating a 2015 Rule that extended eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who sought employment-based lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) status. The rule, implemented in 2015 under the Obama Administration, permitted certain H-4 spouses to secure work authorization if the H-1B nonimmigrant spouse was the principal beneficiary of an approved I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker or had been granted H-1B status under sections 1069a) and (b) of AC21. The rule was designed to attract and retain highly skilled foreign workers by permitting their spouses to obtain work permits, reducing the disruption to certain sectors of the U.S. economy (such as the Tech industry) that rely on H-1B visa holders to fill shortfalls in the employment market. By permitting spouses to work, the rule provided an incentive to highly skilled individuals to stay and work in the U.S.
Since its implementation in May of 2015, the rule has been the subject of ongoing litigation that challenges the right of H-4 visa holders to work in the U.S. While the administration has delayed making a decision in the lawsuit, the government will have to make a decision on the H-4 work permit rule by January 2. According to those familiar with the lawsuit, the government has signaled a desire to terminate the work authorization for all H-4 spouses. It is expected that the Trump Administration will terminate the issuance of work permits to H-4 visa holders in light of the president’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, which mandated a review of existing immigration policies, prioritizing the preservation of American Jobs.
Scott Legal is monitoring the situation and will provide updates as they become available.
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