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Possible change in employment status for H-4 visa holders

Individuals in Pennsylvania who hold an H-4 visa may be interested to hear that the Department of Homeland Security may make it possible for some of them to work with some limitations. At present, the visa is offered mainly to the spouses of H-1B visa holders. More than 60 percent of the H-1B visa holders are Indian, and most work in science, engineering or technology positions.

The majority of individuals who have the H-4 visa and are unable to work are Indian women. Like their spouses, they tend to be highly skilled. Some argue that making it illegal for them to work deprives the United States of valuable expertise as well as the revenue from taxes that would be paid. Furthermore, they would tend to earn high incomes and thus would be in higher tax brackets.

There are other arguments for allowing individuals on a H-4 visa to work. Because Canada and a number of other countries do allow employment for spouses in the same situation, the United States risks falling behind these countries in technology and other areas. In addition, advocates argue that instead of taking jobs that might otherwise employ American citizens, many of these visa holders are entrepreneurial and would create jobs.

An individual accompanying a spouse who has an employment-based visa may wish to work with an immigration attorney to find out whether it is possible for them to get a work visa as well. The DHS should make a decision within a year. In the meantime, individuals who wish to remain and work might look into other avenues of immigration. For example, if they have special skills or have family members who are permanent residents in the United States, they might be able to obtain a work permit or green card.

Source: CNN, "I'm a legal immigrant, but not allowed to work", Sara Ashley O'Brien , September 15, 2014

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