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Eshoo, Lofgren Introduce Legislation to Protect Work Authorization for Highly Skilled Immigrants

November 16th, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18) and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) introduced the H-4 Employment Protection Act, legislation prohibiting the Trump Administration from revoking an Obama-era rule that extends work authorization to the spouses of H-1B visa holders, including thousands of immigrants in Silicon Valley.

The current Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations allow certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders who are stuck in green card backlogs to obtain employment authorization, allowing them to pursue their own professional goals and contribute to the U.S. economy.  Many H-4 visa holders are highly skilled professionals, and DHS extended eligibility for employment authorization to them in recognition of their potential economic contribution, as well as the economic hardship facing the families of many H1-B workers waiting for their green cards—particularly those who cannot live in high-cost areas on a single income.  Since the rule was implemented, over 100,000 workers, mainly women, have received employment authorization, improving U.S. competitiveness lessening the economic burden on thousands of H-1B workers and their families. The H-4 Employment Protection Act prohibits the Trump Administration from revoking this important rule, which it is expected to do by the end of the year.

“Protecting work authorization for these H-4 visa holders is a matter of both economic fairness and family unity,” Rep. Eshoo said. “Eliminating this benefit would create a painful choice for many immigrants to either split up their families or return to their home countries and use their talents to compete against American businesses.”

“These are American citizens-in-waiting, stuck in line for their number to come up,” Rep. Lofgren said. “The Trump Administration believes they should sit on their hands and do nothing, even though many are accomplished, qualified, and highly-skilled. Prohibiting H-1b dependent spouses from working is of no benefit to our country, and if allowed to move forward, many of these families that can contribute so much to our workforce will simply move to countries with a more sensible approach to immigration. This much needed bill will block the Trump Administration from needlessly harming our economy and the lives of skilled immigrant families.”

In March 2018, Reps. Eshoo and Lofgren led 13 Members of Congress in writing to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, urging her to reconsider DHS’s proposal to revoke eligibility for employment authorization to H-4 dependent spouses.

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