Cancelling techie spouses’ work permits may hit IT firms: study

A University of Tennessee study reveals how H4-EAD work restrictions affect H-1B visa holders’ work life.

As the spring deadline for Trump administration’s plans to revoke H4 EAD work permits for techie spouses approaches, thousands of Indians in the US on H1-B visas are worried about their future.

The fact that an Obama era rule that permitted spouses of those on H-1B visas with approved I-140 to work has been contributing to the US economy has often been highlighted. Now a new study reveals how restrictive work permits can negatively impact the personal and professional lives of H-1B workers and their spouses.

The study titled, “Impact of spousal work restrictions on expatriates’ work life and overall life satisfaction,” establishes that spousal dissatisfaction has been one of the top reasons for expatriate assignment failure.

The study was conducted by Pooja Vijaykumar, a researcher at Kemmy Business School, Limerick, Ireland and Christopher Cunningham, a professor at Department of Psychology at the University of Tennessee.

Talking to the American Bazaar on the key finding of the study, Pooja Vijaykumar says, “We found spousal work restrictions to negatively affect expatriates’ work role and, in turn reducing their overall life satisfaction.

“We identified six core classes of challenges faced by spouses of expatriates: wasted skills, financial issues, boredom, social isolation, quality time and domestic tension.”

“Due to domestic shortage of software-related skills,” the study noted, “Indian citizens are top recipients of H-1B visas accounting for 74% of the 345,000 petitions approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS; Migration Policy Institute, 2017).”

“Despite the importance and value of this population, the well-being of these expatriates is threatened within the current complex American political climate,” it said.

Under the Obama administration, H4-dependent spouses of expatriates on H-1B visa with I-140 approval were granted work permits in 2015.

However, under the Trump administration, the USCIS is planning to reverse the 2015 final rule that granted eligibility and cancel work permits for dependent spouses.

Based on this new eligibility rule, it is estimated between 90,000 and 100,000 spouses of H-1B visa holders will lose their jobs. Over 90% of these spouses are women who held successful jobs and often advanced degrees in their native country.

On how the reversal of the permit, if that happens affect millions, Vijaykumar says, “Given these issues we anticipate the situation that may develop in coming months will be more critical and difficult for expatriate families than what was experienced in 2014.

“Many of these individuals who were temporarily benefited by the Obama presidential administration’s immigration policies may have, in this time, bought a home or started their own businesses.”

“These major life events may soon have to be reversed or undone in some way if spousal work permits are cancelled,” she said.

“It is also important to note that the unpredictability of these impending changes to American visa restrictions will not only cause financial strain, but is already also causing psychological burden on families, particularly the spouses of expatriates in these families.”

“Furthermore, cancelling work permits for spouses could negatively affect business operations for major IT companies,” Vijaykumar said.

Researchers hope that sharing this research may encourage policy makers to more fully consider the implications of visa-related policy changes on expatriates’ spouses, families, employing organizations, and broader communities.


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)


  1. The H4 work permits were provided so that spouses of H1B holder with an approved I-140 can work. However , the spouses who have the H4 work permit are misusing it by showing fake IT experience on their resumes and getting a job in IT. These work permits were given to them to find work in the skills they have and not to find work with fake experience. It was not given to find a job in IT. So because of this misuse , it should be revoked.

  2. Rick Santiago

    Kick out all these bloody visa indians asap. No more work permit for INdian, no visas also. Racist SOBs came here and making whole country corrupt like their own country. Get out of USA, you don’t belong here. GO back india.

  3. Immigration Agent / CyberCoolie Business Model is now having difficulties. Please try to create more jobs for skilled indians in Mother India.

  4. “ Due to domestic shortage of software-related skills,” the study noted…..

    Any study that finds a shortage of software related skills should not be trusted but instead regarded as cheap labor propaganda.

    • Ditto, the indains have brought down the work culture in IT to such levels that no American would want to enter any IT department.

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