Still more to be done to extend benefits to all H-4 visa holders
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 24, 2015) — A new rule announced today by the Department of Homeland Security will allow certain spouses (H-4 visa holders) of temporary workers (H-1B visa holders) to apply for employment eligibility. The rule will go into effect May 26, 2015 and is welcome relief for thousands of H-4 visa spouses who have been lawfully present in the U.S. but unable to work legally.
“The inability of H-4 visa holders to work has long-prevented the spouses of H-1B visa holders from contributing financially to their household as well as to our nation’s economy,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “This rule is a win-win for immigrant families and our nation because it allows individuals to use the full scope of their educational and professional skills and fully participate to our country’s economy and as integral members of American society.”
In 2013, a total of 96,753 individuals were granted H-4 visas. Of those, approximately 86 percent were from Asian countries. Six of the top ten countries of origin for H-4 dependents are Asian countries, namely India, China, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and Pakistan – with individuals from India making up the overwhelming majority of H-4 visa holders.
DHS estimates that the number of people who would benefit from this change would be “as high as 179,600 in the first year and 55,000 annually in subsequent years.”
Advancing Justice | AAJC joined with the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans in calling for the rule. While this change is a step in the right direction, Advancing Justice | AAJC believes more can still be done.
“As part of future administrative relief, DHS should consider extending work authorization benefits to all H-4 visa holders,” said Prerna Lal, NAPABA Law Foundation partners and in-house counsel community law fellow at Advancing Justice | AAJC. “This includes the children of H-1B workers, who often age out of eligibility for lawful permanent residence due to the significant employment-visa backlog, and are unable to benefit from programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) due to their lawful status as of June 15, 2012.”
H-4 spouses eligible for the new rule should gear up to apply for the benefit by collecting the necessary fees ($380) and documentation to show their eligibility. Eligible applicants can get more information from USCIS on application requirements at http://www.uscis.gov/i-765
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC is a national nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. working to fight for civil and human rights and empower Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to participate in our democracy. Advancing Justice | AAJC is part of a national affiliation that also includes Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Chicago and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.