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Congrats, H-1B Spouses, You Can Get Back to Work Soon

Obama administration officials propose visa system changes to encourage skilled immigrants to stay in the U.S.


Obama administration officials unveiled proposed rules today that would allow spouses of some H1-B visa holders to work in the U.S., along with other changes designed to encourage highly skilled immigrants to stay here.

Are you an H-4 dependent spouse of an H-1B worker with an approved Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) or have you been granted a visa extension because you’re seeking permanent residence in the U.S.? Congratulations! You may soon be able to get approval to fight rush hour traffic, check your work email obsessively and fight through grocery store aisles on the weekends like the rest of us.

Currently, spouses and other dependents of H-1B visa holders are barred from working in the U.S. The change has been sought for years because many H-1B visa holders have complained that their spouses have had to put their careers on hold while in the U.S. It has also created financial problems for some highly skilled immigrants residing in areas with a high cost of living, like Silicon Valley and New York City.

Department of Homeland Security officials estimate that about 97,000 spouses will apply for permission to work the first year after the change is approved. After that, about 30,000 spouses a year are expected to seek work permits.

The change is an “important step in the right direction,” said U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Penny Pritzker in a call with reporters Tuesday morning. The White House announced the policy change earlier this year.

Homeland Security officials are seeking comment on the proposal, which is expected to go into effect sometime later this year.

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