H4 work authorization may be next on Trump’s hit list, says Sheela Murthy

The ace lawyer says the ambiguity in the Jan. 17 notification on “compelling circumstances” EAD leaves much to be desired.

Sheela Murthy. Photo credit: Bala Chandran.

Prominent immigration lawyer Sheela Murthy said that it is likely that the Trump administration could reverse the work authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders.

Murthy, the founder of Murthy Law Firm, one of the nation’s top immigration law firms, pointed out that a draft executive order that is being circulated “calls for the Department of Homeland Security to review all regulation that allow foreign nationals to work in the US to determine which of those regulations violate US Immigration laws, or otherwise are not in the national interest.”

RELATED: H4 visa-holders’ work authorization is under review: report

She said that it “is a coded message for certain classes of EADs like the H4 EAD program.”

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services began issuing Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to H4 visa holders in May 2015.

The work authorization for H-1B spouses, who enter the United States on H4 visa, came after much deliberations. The Obama administration issued an executive order in 2014 to allow work authorization to H-1B holders in line for green cards or permanent residency. The decision was made realizing the economic hardships that H-1B spouses bear, though being highly skilled and job eligible.

RELATED: H4 visa: a primer

“Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense,” USCIS Director Leon Rodríguez said in 2015. “It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families.”

RELATED: 458,177 H4 visas issued in 6 years between 2008-2013

Only those H4 visa holders who are the beneficiaries of an approved Immigration Petition for Immigrant Worker (Form 1-140), or those who are the spouses of H-1B visa holders who have got an extension of their authorized period of admission in the US, beyond the permitted six years that is eligible for EADs.

Follow The American Bazaar’s continuing coverage of H4 visa-related issues

But allowing H4 visa holders to work has been controversial right from the beginning. An anti-H-1B group, Save Jobs USA. challenged the move in court. As The American Bazaar reported last month, the administration asked for 60 days to come up with a position on the issue.

RELATED: Save Jobs USA petition to not issue work permits to H4 visa holders dismissed

Murthy, based in Owings Mills, MD, said the USCIS may even tighten the I-140 EADs given under the so-called compelling circumstances.

Earlier, the USCIS had allowed certain visa-holders, including H-1B1 and L1 holders, to apply for separate EADs “for a limited period if there are compelling circumstances that, in the discretion of DHS, justify the issuance of employment authorization.”

RELATED: H4 visa holders can start a business after getting EAD: Sheela Murthy

The agency issued a notification on January 17 adding two eligibility categories. It said that the “USCIS may grant employment authorization and issue” an EAD in these two categories — which included E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1 visa holders and their spouses — “for up to one year if we determine that there are compelling circumstances that justify issuing employment authorization.”

Murthy said “we were hoping for a much more literal interpretation” of what a “compelling circumstance” is and the absence of that leaves much to be desired. “[Since] we never had any cases because the law only became effective only from 17th of January, whether they will define compelling circumstances so narrowly as to almost — allow nobody to go through barring some kind of weird unusual humanitarian kind of situation as opposed to a much more broader [definition],” she said.

India is a main beneficiary of the H1B visa program, with as much as 70 percent of visas in these categories issued to Indian nationals.

The Trump administration is already in a repealing spree to reverse several of Obama-era regulations. In February, it requested for a 60-day time to respond to a court case filed by on reversing work authorization of H4 visa holders. This, however, is now looked as an initial sign for bigger changes to non-immigrant work visas.

(This post has been updated.)



  1. Please remove h4 ead. It is taking the jobs of OPT and H1b holders. If they are very talented they can go from F1 status to H1b. So that they will know the pain of how F1 students and H1b’s are facing!
    As h4 ead people work for cheap so the graduated students are not getting jobs.

    • Totally true. I stand with President Trump on this matter. I put so much pain, money, hard work, frustration, etc to earn a degree in the U.S (I also do contribute to the US economy by being a research student and these spouses try to win a lottery by marrying a person with H1B).

      • H4-EAD Wife

        Do you have any idea that out of 340 million population in this country and over 140 Million people working, there are only 89,000 approved H4-EADs spouses working?

        The fact that you are scared by the qualified H4-EAD spouses stealing your jobs with their talent shows how incompetent you are. LOL Stop being a bitch and show confidence in your abilities during interviews. A research student needs to be talented and not a whining bitch ROTFLOL

  2. Look here..if you guys are truely competitive , then come down to the market and apply for job.No one can halt you applying for a job. If you are really talented no one can prevent selecting you..It is up to you..You should win fight against various competitors . World has been changed .It is competitors market now. Stay stronger to fight rather than involving in cheap criticism. Good Luck !!!

  3. Arun Ranjith

    Going against H4 ead is terrible for the economic freedom of an H1B spouse. It either means families have to be torn or binding your spouse to home. This is pathetic.
    Silicon valley was mostly founded by immigrants. You start take the H1B and its benifits away, very soon you can see all those opportunities going to other countries

    • ConcernedAmerican

      Nobody is stopping you. Just don’t sit here and try to force-preach H1B benefits. If you see you are not wanted here, please move back to your own country.

  4. Amanda Scheepers

    H4 EAD will definately be revoked. An Indian techie has written a non-partisan process report in this link.

  5. Jatin Grover

    H1B abuse needs to stop and legal immigrants on the path to green card need to be treated better. 20 years wait time for Employment based green card and not allowing your spouse to work is illogical.

  6. James Walker

    H4 EAD is an incredible deal for H-1B spouses. The H4 EAD have literally no limit on where they work, what they can do, businesses they can start, so long as their sponsoring spouse holds an H-1B. A huge amount of these Indian males married highly skilled spouses, so each H-1B is often taking up to TWO well paying AMERICAN positions, often displacing TWO US permanent residents.
    Those Silicon Valley Oligarchs have met their match in President Trump. The cheap labor train from India is about to come off the tracks!

    • Are you a native american? I dont see you that way. technically you were also standing on the other side of the line as a cheaper labor before you entered the main stream. some came later, some came early. Bro, get yourself together man

      • ConcernedAmerican

        @Subbu, I think you need to get your thought process together. Just because something was done a century or two ago (migration) doesn’t mean we should keep doing it even though times and circumstances have changed. That’s the beauty of American culture, changing with ground reality. Unlike India (presuming from your name) where they continue to reproduce even though resources and opportunities are dwindling.

        • H4-EAD Wife

          @ConcerndAmerican, It’s easier to sit on your couch with iPad in hands while writing these responses. Do you have any idea how much america is advancing technologically? Do you have any idea how much talent pool shortage we have here in America? Remember Indians or Chinese highschool dropouts are not coming here in America to steal plumbing or carpentry jobs. People including H1B visa holders and their spouses are highly qualified, in most cases Masters degree in STEM field. Nobody came here by cross borders illegally. This SAME AMERICAN GOVERNMENT searched for international talent to come here and help boost economy by joining American HIGHLY skilled jobs. Do you think America has HIGHLY skilled people unemployed? Get your homework done before talking publicly and making a fool out of yourself.

  7. FastForwardAfter

    Strike 1 — Premium Processing ends
    Strike 2 — H4 EAD ends
    Strike 3 — ????

    Looks like the H-1B party might be over.

    • Bamboclot44

      H1b ends? Hopefully H1b and L1 are severely restricted to truly the best and brightest people. I mean whoever comes on this visa should be truly exceptional above and beyond the average standard expected for the position. I would say less than 1% of the current applicants qualify. 99% should be just sent back with their visas revoked.

    • H4-EAD Wife

      Strike 3 – Democrats come back in Senate
      Strike 4 – Democratic President comes back
      Strike 5 – H1B and H4-EAD streamlines again
      Strike 6 – American Economy boosts further

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.