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Potential Changes to H-1B and H-4 Visas

H-1B visas are generally issued to foreign skilled workers for the purpose of working in the United States for a certain period of time. Since the H-1B visa period can be extended in some cases, the U.S. State Department often allows the foreign skilled worker to petition for his or her spouse and children to join them under H-4 non-immigrant status.

Until May of 2014, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not have any provisions in place for H-4 visa holders to legally work. This created a certain quality of life issue for families of H-1B holders for various reasons. First of all, in many of the communities where highly skilled foreign workers are in demand, the cost of living requires more than one source of household income to survive. Second, some H-4 visa holders felt as if they were being kept in a golden cage by the DHS. Click here to learn more about adjustments of status and consulate processing.

From Golden Cage to Golden Opportunity

In many cases, H-4 visa holders have similar educational and professional backgrounds as their H-1B spouses. For employers looking for workers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) fields, this could present a potential of tens of thousands of STEM job candidates.

Under the current situation, H-4 visa holders are only able to apply for employment authorization if their H-1B spouses are sponsored by their employers to get permanent residency. However, a recent proposal by DHS to amend the H-4 visa rules could open the doors to legal employment. The requirements would be as follows:

–          The H-1B spouse must have an approved I-140 form on file.

–          The H-1B spouse has been granted an extension by his or her employer.

As it stands, the DHS has not specified the application procedures or fees that H-4 visa holders will face as they try to obtain employment authorization. It is important to remember, however, that there will be issuance caps similar to those of the H-1B visa. In the first year after the rule amendment, there will be a limit of 97,000 H-4 employment authorizations granted to H-4 visa holders. After the initial year, applicants can expect annual caps of 30,000.

If you are interested in petitioning for your spouse and children to join you in San Diego and need assistance with filing, please reach out to the professional immigration lawyers San Diego families trust. Call 858-874-0711 to set up a free consultation today. We can further discuss your specific case and help you find the best way to move forward.

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