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