The U.S. will provide work permits to spouses of H-1B visa holders beginning May 26, a move that is expected to benefit thousands of talented and professional Indian spouses who come to America but are unable to work, according to an announcement in Washington, D.C., Feb. 24. A Press Trust of India report by Lalit K. Jha.

Under existing laws, spouses of H-1B visa holders, many Indians, are not eligible to work. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting applications for work visas from H-1B spouses on May 26.

Once USCIS approves the ‘Form I-765’ and the H-4 dependent spouse receives an Employment Authorization Card, he or she may begin working in the United States.

USCIS estimates the number of individuals eligible to apply for employment authorization under this rule could be as high as 179,600 in the first year and 55,000 annually in subsequent years. The move has been welcomed by Indian Americans.


South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) in a statement applauded the US government for announcing that it will extend work authorization, effective May 26, 2015, to some H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.

The USCIS, in a statement, said the Department of Homeland Security is extending the eligibility for employment authorization (EAD) to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants who are seeking employment based Permanent Residency.

Eligible individuals include certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants (principal H1B worker) who are the beneficiaries of an approved ‘Form I-140’, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or satisfy at least one or more of the three conditions.

The conditions include that the principal H-1B worker has an approved ‘I-140’ or is currently on an extended H-1B status beyond the 6-year limitation based upon an I-140 petition application pending for at least 365 days (one calendar year)

“This decision is going to directly affect many of our life members as they would now be able to join the professional workforce and chase the ‘American Dream’,” the Telugu Association of North America said in a statement.

Recent State Department figures show that approximately 76 percent of those who received H-4 status in 2013 were from South Asian countries.

“Many H-4 dependent spouses have found themselves to be involuntary homemakers upon their arrival to the US, which not only impacts their family income and sustainability, but also diminishes their ability to expand upon professional skills,” SAALT said.

SAALT has called on USCIS to allow all employment authorization for all H-4 visa holders, as H-1B workers and their families are most successful when H-4 visa holders have the ability to contribute to their household income and our economy and pursue their goals.

“Today’s announcement is a welcomed first-step that will dramatically help some families in the US but the success of H-1B workers, their families and our nation’s economic growth is limited when only some H-4 visa holders are eligible for work authorization,” it said.