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Trump Administration Moves to End H-4 Visas for Immigrant Spouses

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 25, 2019 11:49 AM

It's one thing to use an H-1B visa to hire skilled workers from outside the country. (And even those are harder and harder to come by.) But if those workers are married and their spouses can't follow them to the U.S. and also work, you're less likely to land them.

And that process may get even tougher under new immigration reforms. Last week the Trump administration announced it would move forward with its plans to end H-4 visas, which allow spouses and children of H-1B visa holders to live and work in the country until they are able to obtain green cards. That could affect some 90,000 employees, many working at the biggest tech firms.

Half the Employment Equation

The White House originally targeted H-4 visas two years ago, but has delayed definitive action until last week. Legal challenges to the proposed change have also been on hold, awaiting regulatory action. But the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Department of Homeland Security has finished its work on the proposal and sent it to the White House for review. That could mean H-4 visas come to an end in the next few days or months.

And that could be catastrophic for big firms, small businesses, and even states, according to the Chronicle:

At issue are work permits for nearly 100,000 immigrants who are here with spouses, working on high-tech visas and seeking green cards. (Spouses and children of H-1B visa holders have H-4 visas granting residence.) The largest share of those, nearly 30,000 of them, live in California, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

H1-B Minus H-4 Equals?

Still, the change won't happen overnight. And there are sure to be more legal challenges to whatever rule comes out of the White House. If you currently have employees working under H-1B or H-4 visas, you should check with your in-house counsel on how the regulation could affect your workers. Or talk to a local employment attorney to get your questions answered.

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