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Spouses of Some H-1B Workers can Work in the US

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking to attract highly skilled workers to the U.S. and retain them. The DHS recently announced the publication of proposed rules that would permit the H-4 husbands or wives of certain H-1B workers to work here. This is good news for the H-4 dependents of H-1B workers who are currently not permitted to work in the U.S.

H-1B visa holders include software engineers, professors, dentists, mathematicians, scientists, lawyers and other qualified workers. Husbands or wives of these qualified workers can get H-4 visas and come to the U.S. with the principle H-1B visa holders. But the H-4 visas do not allow them to work in the country. If the proposed rule is approved, H-4 visa holders would be allowed to work here. This new rule would encourage specially trained workers to remain here and support U.S. businesses.

However, not all the H-4 visa holders would be permitted to get employment authorization documents. Only the husbands or wives of those H-1B workers who have filed applications for (permanent resident cards) green cards would be allowed to apply for work permits. Some U.S. employers sponsor the H-1B workers they hire, for green cards. In that case, they file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker for those H-1B visa holders. This rule would benefit the H-4 dependents of such workers.

According to the U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and the deputy secretary of the DHS Alejandro Mayorkas, the proposed rule would initially impact more than 97,000 people and then benefit 30,000 people, every year in future.

However, H-4 visa holders cannot apply for work permits now; they will need to wait for the DHS to implement this rule. Once the rule is implemented, they would be allowed to file their applications for work permits. This rule will help the country to retain talented professionals who would contribute to the economy of the U.S.


A H-4 husband or wife of an H-1B worker can apply for a U.S. work permit if the H-1B worker has started the process to become a green card holder. This also applies to the dependents of H-1B workers on whose behalf immigrant petitions have been filed and who have been granted an extension of stay under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21).

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