H-4 visa holders could remain unemployed for up to 10 years without EAD: report

Image via USCIS.gov

The new SAAPRI report, “Defying Dependence,” incorporates survey data from over 100 South Asian H-4 visa holders.

  • Since the adoption of the H-4 work authorization policy in 2015, 93% of all H-4 EADs were granted to South Asians and 93% were granted to women.
  • Revoking the H-4 EAD would have a detrimental impact on economic independence for women, as H-4 visa holders could remain unemployed for up to 10 years or more without the EAD.
  • Over 84,000 South Asians would be impacted if the proposal to rescind work authorization for H-4 visa holders is enacted.
  • 7% of H-4 visa holders are self-employed, including those who operate businesses that employ other immigrants and US citizens.

These are some of the findings of a new report released today by the South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI). The report, titled “Defying Dependence,” highlights the emotional, professional and economic stress that the ongoing H-4 EAD revoking proposal could cause to a group of highly qualified professionals, many of whom hold master’s degrees, from American universities and are already creating and contributing to businesses in the country.

On February 20, this year, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a proposal to remove “H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorization.” The proposal has been under review for months, with no decision date announced yet.

The Trump administration had signaled its intention to reverse the Obama era EAD rule at the very beginning saying that it robs American workers of jobs. The US tech industry, which has employed most of the H4 spouses, has called on the White House not to revoke the EAD.

In the meantime, the professional and personal lives of thousands of individuals on H-4 EADs in the US remain in a state of uncertainty. As the SAAPRI survey reveals, a majority of people in this group are women and mostly from India.

The new report also establishes that rescinding work authorization for H-4 visa holders disproportionately impacts immigrant women and families from South Asian countries. It also says that well over 84,000 South Asians would be impacted by this policy change.

The SAAPRI report incorporates survey data from over 100 South Asian H-4 visa holders, dependent spouses of H-1B workers, and includes in-depth profiles of six women that have the H-4 employment authorization document from different parts of the United States.

“Defying Dependence” is coauthored by Dr. Amy Bhatt, author of High-Tech Housewives: Indian IT Workers, Gendered Labor, and Transmigration.

Dhara Puvar, Executive Director of SAAPRI, talking about the importance of the study says, “Our findings reveal that the H-4 EAD rescission is a racial, economic, and gender justice issue.” “Defying Dependence” also discusses how the ability to work is closely tied to mental health outcomes for H-4 EAD holders and their families.

ALSO READ: H4 visa: a primer

While H-4 EAD closed the employment gap for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the report also points out that H-4 spouses, especially those who do not have a STEM career, do not always obtain employment easily, immediately, or in their desired field.

Recent uncertainty around the continuation of H-4 has led to instability and even termination in the workplace for EAD holders. Moreover, the economic dependency that H-4 visa holders face can place them in vulnerable positions in cases of domestic violence, or spousal abuse if they are unable to earn on their own.

Another important point that the report points out is that revoking work authorization would tear families apart and negatively impact children. Approximately 75% of H-4 EAD holders have children and 85% of those children are US citizens.

H-1B and H-4 visa holders who are at risk of not having their applications renewed while waiting for a Green Card, or who must leave the country to find work to support their families, face being separated from their children. For families that have children born outside of the US, once these children turn 21 years old, they could “age out” of their H-4 visa status as child dependents. This presents an enormous social and economic disadvantage to young people, many of whom have lived in the US for the majority of their lives.

“Defying Dependence” calls for the protection of H-4 work authorization and a congressional solution to the Green Card backlog that will ensure that the H-4 EAD program does not remain a stop-gap solution to current immigration hurdles.

SAAPRI, a non-profit based in Chicago, conducts research to formulate equitable and socially responsible policy recommendations affecting the South Asian American community.


New USCIS biometric requirement likely to delay H4 approvals (July 2, 2019)

From aging out of H4 visa to AWS Summit panel, Dolica Gopisetty’s extraordinary journey (June 24, 2019)

USCIS says rule-making process to terminate H4 EAD not complete yet: report (June 18, 2019)

H4 work authorization may be next on Trump’s hit list, says Sheela Murthy (March 9, 2017)

H-4 and H-1: Time for Indian immigrants to speak up on immigration policy, says author Amy Bhatt (January 5, 2019)

New bill proposes to let H-1B workers switch jobs, H4 visa holders to work, F-1 holders to apply for green card (September 14, 2018)

End of the road for H-4 EAD program? (April 24, 2018)

Trump administration may soon end H-4 Visa Rule: report (February 1, 2018)

Tech industry urges USCIS not to cancel H-4 spouses’ work permits (January 19, 2018)

Trump to end H-4 EAD program for spouses of H-1B workers (December 15, 2017)

Trump administration asks for more time on H4 work authorization (April 4, 2017)

Regulations on H-4 EAD program on cards; may even be terminated, says Murthy Law Firm (November 24, 2017)

H4 visa-holders’ work authorization is under review: report (February 7, 2017)

H-1B visa exhibition at the Smithsonian: of goddess who gives visa, to women on H4 status in shackles (November 24, 2015)

H4 visa holders start to get EAD work permits from USCIS (June 29, 2015)

Save Jobs USA petition to not issue work permits to H4 visa holders dismissed (May 27, 2015)

DHS starts to accept employment authorization applications from H4 visa holders(May 26, 2015)

COLUMN: Save Jobs USA’s civil complaint against DHS to stop H4 visa holders from getting EAD cards is discriminatory (May 22, 2015)

No work permits for H4 visa holders: lawsuit filed by Save Jobs USA (April 27, 2015)

H4 visa holders can start a business after getting EAD: Sheela Murthy (March 9, 2015)

458,177 H4 visas issued in 6 years between 2008-2013 (February 26, 2015)

COLUMN: EAD cards for H4 visa holders: USCIS needs to give it to all of them(February 24, 2015)

EAD cards for H4 visa holders: green cards better solution, says IEEE-USA (February 24, 2015)

H4 visa holders can apply for EAD cards beginning May 26, 2015 (February 24, 2015)

EAD cards to H4 visa holders: Immigration Voice lauds Barack Obama February 24, 2015

H4 visa: a primer (December 9, 2014)

Final rule on work permits for H4 visa holders by December 2014-January 2015(November 23, 2014)

COLUMN: Obama’s speech has not made anything clear for immigrants waiting for Green Cards, H4 visa holders hoping for work permit (November 21, 2014)

COLUMN: Agony for H4 visa holders, as Obama’s executive action delays work permits (November 21, 2014)

COLUMN: As Republicans take control of the Senate, dream of H4 visa holders to get work permits, expedited Green Cards, is over (November 5, 2014)

Work permits for H4 visa holders will end mental anguish for almost 100,000 spouses in the US (June 10, 2014)

Indian women on H4 visas eager to get back to work (May 8, 2014)

Many H4 visa holders will get work permits this year (May 7, 2014)

DHS proposes to allow limited number of H4 visa holders work permits (April 8, 2014)

For H4 visa holders from India, the X visa all-important (May 26, 2013)

BLOG: The H4 visa conundrum (April 21, 2013)


  1. Yes I am on h4 visa since 10 years sitting alone . When I try to get back to work with this gap also master degree from India, us employees see and give only jobs to us students only, major drawback for homemaker

  2. detrimental impact on Americans? dude, go to college, get a degree and be competitive. Stop being paranoid. Jeez…

    • Tanay Mishra

      “DUDE PSAN”…. why don’t YOU go back to India??? And also take the 5 million other useless visa and job leeches you brought along with you. You’re no longer welcome here, no one needs you nor wants you, you have no family or cultural let alone ancestral ties to this country, so WHY ARE YOU HERE??

  3. “Revoking the H-4 EAD would have a detrimental impact on economic independence for women, as H-4 visa holders could remain unemployed for up to 10 years or more without the EAD.”

    Failure to revoke the H-4 EAD will have a detrimental impact on Americans.

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