Uncertain Future for Spouse EAD (H-4)

The H-4 EAD program allows certain dependents of H-1B highly skilled nonimmigrant workers the opportunity to apply for employment benefits. The work program is administrated by the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). However, the program is under threat by both a federal court of appeals and the president.

As is the case for many legal immigration benefits, the Trump administration and supporters are determined to curb the H-4 EAD benefits. The lawsuit, which threatens the spousal work program, was filed by Save Jobs USA. The complainant claims that the H-4 EAD program depresses wages and takes jobs from the American workers. Although the claims lack vital evidence, the Trump Administration does not support the Obama era program and may soon release new regulations that would end the H-4 EAD program and render the lawsuit unnecessary. USCIS continues to cite President Trump’s executive Order, Buy American Hire American, as the guidance for a proposal to end the spouse work program.

On February 21st, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a motion from the Trump Administration to delay the case for 90 days on the condition that the Administration, and further the DHS, would release new regulations for the H-4 EAD. However, the case has continued to be delayed as DHS leadership continues to review the proposal to end the program. On August 20th, DHS notified the federal appeals court in D.C. of further delays to a finished proposal. However, DHS representatives also stated in the notice that the agency fully intended to go forward with the proposal once it has been reviewed by officials in the executive branch. For beneficiaries of the program, the imminent proposal does not necessarily mean an immediate change to the program, supporter will have an opportunity to oppose the proposal during the public comment period. However, because there have been several delays from DHS, it is uncertain when the proposal will be released.