In 2015, the Obama administration granted work authorization to H-4 visa holders whose spouses are in line to obtain their green cards. To date, over 100,000 work permits have been approved for H-4 visa holders since 2015. The majority of these work permits are held by educated Indian women whose husbands are working in the United States on H-1B visas.
However, in December of 2017, President Trump signed the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order. In light of this executive order, the Department of Homeland Security announced a plan to issue a new proposed rule in June of 2018 to rescind the ability of these H-4 holders to obtain work authorization on the premise that these H-4 work authorizations deprive American workers of jobs. Since that time, the publication of the new rule has been postponed twice. The USCIS has explained that it still intends to proceed with the rescission of work authorization for these H-4 visa holders but that it is currently focused on solving other issues.
After the DHS does propose a new rule regarding work authorization for eligible H-4 visa holders, there will be a 60-day public comment period during which time members of the public are able to submit their comments regarding the new rule. In addition, it is possible that any new rule on this topic issued by the Trump administration may face a court challenge from a district court issuing an injunction to stop the implementation of the new rule.
Currently, the rule allowing work authorization for eligible H-4 visa holders remains unchanged. As such, these H-4 spouses are still able to apply for and renew these work authorizations. Nevertheless, the USCIS has confirmed its intent to eventually propose a new rule regarding this topic, and as such any eligible H-4 visa holders should consider alternatives in the event that a new rule may prevent them from working in the future.