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'Economic independence of H-1B spouses will be dented if their right to work is revoked'

, TNN|
Updated: Jul 17, 2019, 06.16 AM IST
US new visa
(Representative image)


  • Spouses of H-1B workers come to US on an H-4 visa
  • If the primary H-1 holder is on track for a green card, the spouse can apply for an employment authorisation document (EAD)
(This story originally appeared in on Jul 16, 2019)
MUMBAI: A recently released research paper, points out that if the right to work, currently available to dependent spouses of a certain category of H-1B workers (viz: those who are on track for a green card) is revoked, their economic independence will be severely impacted.

Spouses of H-1B workers come to US on an H-4 visa. If the primary H-1 holder is on track for a green card, the spouse can apply for an employment authorisation document (EAD). This gives the spouse the right to seek employment or be self-employed.

As reported by TOI earlier, majority of the EADs have been allotted to women and a significant chunk to those from India.

A recent report by a US based non-profit, the South Asian American Policy and Research Institute (SAAPRI), points out that “Rescinding work authorization for H-4 visa holders disproportionately impacts immigrant women and families from South Asian countries”

On February 20, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a proposal to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorization, which has been under review for months with an uncertain decision date, adds its press release.

It’s report ‘Defying Dependence’ incorporates survey data from over 100 South Asian H-4 visa holders, who are dependent spouses of H-1B workers. According to SAAPRI’s findings, since the adoption of the H-4 work authorization policy in 2015, 93% of all H-4 EADs were granted to South Asians and 93% were granted to women.

“Current immigration policy is inequitable for those seeking citizenship and belonging in the US from select countries. This report aims to voice the experiences of those directly impacted by pending work authorization policy change in the H-4 community, the vast majority being South Asian women and families,” said Dhara Puvar, Executive Director of SAAPRI. “Our findings reveal that the H-4 EAD rescission is a racial, economic, and gender justice issue.”

SAAPRI found that revoking the H-4 EAD would have a detrimental impact on economic independence for women, as H-4 visa holders could remain unemployed for up to 10 years or more without the EAD.

This report, also discusses how the ability to work is closely tied to the mental health outcomes for H-4 EAD holders and their families. Urvashi, one of the H-4 EAD holders interviewed for the report, explains, “The H-4 EAD policy change was a life-giver to many women like me who were stuck at home, with no life of their own or sense of purpose.” SAAPRI calls for the protection of the H-4 EAD program & a Congressional solution to the green card backlog, which will ensure that the work authorisation program does not remain a stop-gap solution to current immigration hurdles.
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