An H-4 visa is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouses and children under the age of 21) of H-1B visa holders, most of whom are Indian IT professionals .
The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that U.S. companies can use to employ foreign workers in specialized occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The tech companies rely on hiring tens of thousands of employees from countries like India and China every year.
The H4 visa is usually issued to those who have already begun their search for US permanent residence status.
The Bureau of Administration and Budget (OMB) and the Bureau of Information and Regulation (OIRA) announced on Monday that the proposed rule entitled “Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Permitted Foreign Nationals” was withdrawn.
Spouses of Indian professionals with H-1B visas, mostly women, are the biggest beneficiaries of the Obama-era rule that issued work permit cards.
Shortly after coming to power, the Trump administration announced in 2017 that it would lift this rule. However, the Republican Party-led Trump administration was unable to complete the process in its four years of rule. During the presidential election, the Biden campaign promised to withdraw the Trump administration’s move.
Shortly after his election victory, a group of 60 members of the US House of Representatives wrote to Democrat Biden to “unilaterally extend” the documents approving procedural work for holders of H4 visas.
“We respectfully request the Ministry of Homeland Security to publish a federal registry notice on the first day of your administration extending the validity of all expired H4-EADs (Employment Authorization Document),” wrote Congressman Biden in a letter on December 16 .
In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a rule that allows certain H4-dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders to legally seek employment in the U.S., the letter said.
This rule marked an important step in eliminating the gender gap in our immigration system, as around 95 percent of H4 visa holders who have been granted work permits are women.
As of December 2017, USCIS had approved 1,26,853 work permit applications for H-4 visa holders. According to a 2018 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), 93 percent of approved H-4 work permit applications were made to Indian-born individuals and five percent to Chinese-born individuals.