H-4 data

USCIS has released new data confirming anecdotal evidence that shows that the overwhelming majority of H-4 visa holders with work authorization are women from India. The H-4 EAD program was implemented in 2015 after several years of concerted lobbying by the Indian American community. (Surya Pratap Mishra‎/SaveH4EAD photo via Facebook)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released new data May 11 confirming anecdotal evidence that H-4 visa holders with work authorization are overwhelmingly women from India.

The data was released in response to a congressional query and reports numbers from when H-4 EAD was first implemented in 2015 – by the Obama administration – to the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1, 2017 and ended Dec. 25, 2017. In total, almost 85,000 women and 6,000 men currently have H-4 EAD. More than 33,000 women and 2,000 men have successfully applied for extensions.

In FY 2015, the first year of the program, 24,791 H-4 EADs were approved from Indian applicants; China had 711 applicants, and the Philippines 91. In FY 2016, more than 31,000 applications were approved, including 28,660 from India, 1,564 from China, and 248 from the Philippines.

In FY 2017, 27, 275 applications were approved overall; 24,779 from India, 1,832 from China, and 204 from the Philippines. For the first quarter of FY 2018, 6,800 applications were approved, with applicants from India receiving 6,103.

Next month, the Trump administration, in concert with the Department of Homeland Security, is expected to issue a new rule rescinding work authorization for H-4 visa holders, the spouses of H-1B workers who have an approved application for legal permanent residency in place. The rule will come in response to a lawsuit by Save Jobs USA, which claims that work authorization for certain H-1B spouses robs American workers of jobs. The administration has asked for several extensions, most recently last February when it asked the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to grant it more time to review the economic impact of revoking the program.

The U.S. workforce currently has more than 102 million employees and is at what economists term full employment.

The American Immigration Council issued a statement March 26 supporting the continuation of the H-4 EAD program. The non-partisan organization stated that allowing spouses to work brings the U.S. in line with other countries competing to attract talented foreign nationals.

H-1B workers often have a spouse or family to consider, noted AIC, adding that allowing spouses to work means higher retention rates of H-1B employees.

“If a spouse retains the option of being employed, the U.S. employer can provide a more appealing and competitive job offer,” stated AIC, adding that highly-educated immigrants are more likely to choose a country where immediate family members are welcome.

When immigrant scientists and engineers are asked why they chose the U.S as a destination, the most common response is “family-related reasons,” noted AIC.

Recently, Indian American members of Congress came out in strong opposition to the Trump administration’s plans to toss out H-4 EAD program, implemented in 2015 after several years of concerted lobbying by the Indian American community.

"I will say that the H-4 visas go to women who are just as qualified, sometimes more qualified, than their spouses but haven't been able to work," first-term Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, said at a recent U.S. India Friendship Council event.

Ro Khanna, D-California, doubled down on Jayapal’s sentiments.

“I oppose the move. I am on a bipartisan bill that seeks to ensure work permits for spouses. It is also a question of countering domestic violence,” the congressman who represents much of Silicon Valley said. “Because most of these spouses are women, in the absence of economic independence, they become vulnerable.” (See earlier India-West story here.)

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