H-1B Spouses Face Uncertainty with New H-4 EAD Decision

The fate of H-4 EAD, which allows the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work, is still up in the air after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit kicked a decision over the program’s cancelation back to a lower court.

Save Jobs USA, the tech-workers advocacy group that filed the lawsuit at the core of the case, suggests that the H-4 EAD could result in employment for 180,000 spouses of H-1B holders, resulting in increased (and unfair) competition for tech jobs. The lawsuit argues that the federal government overstepped its bounds in establishing H-4 EAD.

The court’s ruling seemed to agree with the lawsuit’s position, stating: “The rule will increase competition for jobs.” However, those who possess the H-4 EAD can continue to work, at least for now. A new court ruling, or the introduction of new government regulation, could still kill the program.

H-4 EAD, H-1B Both Squeezed

Earlier this year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suggested that ending H-4 EAD would prove “economically significant,” and ultimately benefit American workers:

“Some U.S. workers would benefit from this proposed rule by having a better chance at obtaining jobs that some of the population of the H-4 workers currently hold, as the proposed rule would no longer allow H-4 workers to enter the labor market early.”

However, the federal government is still reviewing its plans to potentially terminate H-4 EAD (the original deadline for a decision was Spring 2019, which passed). In the meantime, it has made the application process far more challenging: as of February 2019, anyone applying for the H-4 EAD needs to undergo biometric screening.

Meanwhile, the H-1B itself has been the focus of tightening government policy. Through the third quarter of fiscal 2019, denial rates for H-1B petitions have skyrocketed to 24 percent, according to a new analysis of USCIS data by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP).

“In the first three quarters of FY 2019, USCIS adjudicators denied 24 percent of H-1B petitions for ‘initial’ employment and 12 percent of H-1B petitions for ‘continuing’ employment,” read the NFAP report (PDF). “The 12 percent denial rate for continuing employment is also historically high—4 times higher than the denial rate of only 3 percent for H-1B petitions for continuing employment as recently as FY 2015.” (A brief note on definitions: ‘initial employment’ means H-1B petitions for new employment, whereas ‘continuing employment’ is typically an extension for an existing employee.)

But that hasn’t stopped some of the country’s biggest tech companies from petitioning for H-1B visas—and subcontracting H-1B workers from services firms. Earlier this year, we analyzed a massive dataset from the U.S. Department of Labor on H-1B data for fiscal year 2019. Here’s what we found: ‘primary’ denotes direct H-1B petitioning, while ‘secondary’ represents subcontracting:

Meanwhile, the government continues to tighten the H-1B process. USCIS wants to institute a $10 registration fee for each H-1B visa application (the added money will supposedly allow it to better “adjudicate” applications), and companies petitioning for H-1B visa are being asked more intensive questions about the nature of the work those workers will be doing.  

54 Responses to “H-1B Spouses Face Uncertainty with New H-4 EAD Decision”

  1. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: There is NO demonstrated labor need for the people accompanying an H1b visa holder.
    It was upsetting to read the submissions on the comments for the H4 EAD rule proposal where spouse after spouse touted the H4 EAD as a kind of bonus to employers as in “BUY ONE (H1b visa) GET ONE FREE”. Totally unacceptable and a slap in the face of the American STEM worker.
    Now, I see the jobs that our kids would have had – checker / bagger / counter-person – are frequently being populated with low-skilled foreign workers using H4 EAD. WHY should we have our children now displaced in the job market?
    The H4 EAD was a BAD decision by the Obama administration.

    • Absolutely correct; I saw this happen exactly in my last “permanent” IT job. The wife of a H1B was able to work at the company and for a fraction of the pay if the company hired a permanent or contractor without sponsorship. The end result is 2 jobs to foreigners.
      Repeal H-4 EAD!

  2. Alfonso Campos

    Si, aprecio que los comentarios son personales, pero en contexto, apre io que Estados Unidos quedó dormido en sus laureles y ahora, que la industria y la mano de obra retorna de Asia a USA, se enfrentan a un espejo real: se les olvidó estudiar y trabajar. De allí, los indios avanzaron mucho y los latinoamericanos, co virtiendobos en la mano de obra tecnológica emergente. La diferencia que aparenta a estos trabajadores extranjeros en USA, radica en la carencia de certificaciones expresas, dado que en países como los latinoamericanos e I Dios, la certificación es universal y no tan exclusiva o de competencias que expiden en USA. No por esta causa, el técnico latino deja de ser excelente. Los trabajadores quienes vivieron el sueño americano, eran de perfil mediocre, laboraban en cargos inferiores o de servicios en su mayoría, pero hoy, las cosas son diferentes. El trabajador latino lleva incurso la tecnología e Ingenieria. Las visas redactadas, son necesarias para filtrar y asegurarse que la persona elegida si cumple con los perfiles exigidos por las empresas de USA, que en muchos casos su misma po la ion no alcanza, para evidenciar esto, no es más observar todas las habilidades y conocimientos que son muy exigentes y que para obtener er esas competencias deberian estudiar en tres universidades, demostrando con esto, las bolsas de empleo, que son casi una mentira en búsqueda del trabajador traído de otro planeta.

    • You said: “Si, aprecio que los comentarios son personales, pero en contexto, apre io que Estados Unidos quedó dormido en sus laureles y ahora, que la industria y la mano de obra retorna de Asia a USA, se enfrentan a un espejo real: se les olvidó estudiar y trabajar.”

      Not only from your use of Spanish would I say that you haven’t been in the U.S. long enough to understand the history of H1B and the impact it had and has to american workers. We did not fall asleep on our laurels, nor did we NOT forget to study and work – as you say.

      When I went to a State University in the early ’80s, I was paying only a little bit more than $200 per semester. I took in a second degree because I could afford to pay for it while I was also working at the same time. Now for the same university, they charge $22,000.00. Our children will not experience the same.

    • Nope. Not even close. We are referring to the H4 EAD which is inappropriate and damaging to the US labor market. You can say people trusted their government and that trust was broken but you cannot say the United States fell asleep on its laurels. The American people are talented, smart and the main fault was the way the company owners were allowed to bring in cheaper workers using the badly abused H1b visas.

    • Let me see if my Spanish is still OK.
      “Si, aprecio que los comentarios son personales, pero en contexto, apre io que Estados Unidos quedó dormido en sus laureles y ahora, que la industria y la mano de obra retorna de Asia a USA, se enfrentan a un espejo real: se les olvidó estudiar y trabajar. De allí, los indios avanzaron mucho y los latinoamericanos, co virtiendobos
      en la mano de obra tecnológica ”
      Alfonso si vas a escribir y hablar en castellano deberías hacerlo mejor pues tu español deja mucho que desear.
      Dear Alfonso Campos,
      Your Spanish is bad syntactical and semantical, but I have to concur with you, we have been sleepingin America but not in the way that you explained but because we allowed some ignorant and corrupt politicians to join some greedy companies to a degree that almost destroyed America. Our educational and immigration systems to mention a few are a disaster.
      Don’t take me wrong with immigration; Immigration is a necessity for any country but has to be controlled not only in quantity but also in quality, for the benefit of the country and its citizens and not the other way around.
      Americans are not stupid neither lazy the best advances in IT have been created in America, not outside America.
      America is one of the few places in the world where people can really be free and prosper.
      Maybe there is still time to make America great again anyway this is the land of the free and the home of the brave?!

  3. I’ve worked with some really great H-1B holders and I’ve worked with a few that are simply average. The program allows the US to bring in top talent from other countries but does suffer from some cost arbitrage.

    It would be more fair to establish and enforce a concept that the H-1B is a precursor to immigration where companies that issue H-1Bs and don’t step up to sponsor those holders for citizenship by the expiration have their future H-1B requests deferred to the back of the line to give priority to companies that are committed to bringing the best talent to America and keeping it here.

  4. For the longest time, we were made to feel that complaining about H1B workers was being racist. Since this H1B has been going on for decades while our cost of education has risen, more and more of us, Americans have started to say enough is enough.

    I also see a lot of disinformation about H1B. One article in Forbes says that the US employer always has to make sure that they cannot find the local talent before it is allowed to sponsor a H1B. This is utter b.s. I have not seen this happening and if it does – they can easily use a trick of padding their technical requirements both from the Employer side, as well as the CV of the H1B candidate.

    H1B and its get 2 for 1 H4 programs should be shut down. H1B program has never given any employer the impetus to grow local talent. And our children find themselves with enormous student loans and low wages.

    I do not like Trump but I will pinch my nose and vote for the person that will shut these immigration programs down.

  5. I never ever hear the subject brought up in any town halls from any of the candidates, nor do I ever hear candidates bring it up.

    20+ plus years and we’re still talking about this!! Trump is the only one that has decreased numbers. BUT ONE OUT OF FOUR IS NOWHERE NEAR ENOUGH!!

    The twofer one is something I’ve seen many times. I’m in the Midwest US and the abuse runs rampant in most all of the companies in the Midwest. St. Louis, Minneapolis, Omaha and Chicago to name a few.

    It’s a well oiled machine with immigration law firms representing companies and raking in millions of dollars and finding any loopholes they can. Business lobbyists are in Washington DC backed with tons of money!!

    The solution is simple. STOP THE H1b program, the H4 EAD program and severely restrict and squeeze down the L1 visa program.

    Let’s bring these stem jobs home to Americans.

    • I wrote to all 3 democratic candidates asking them to address the H1B. I mentioned in my emails that Trump is doing a good job and this results to SILENT VOTERS who will vote for Trump. Biden’s team responded just asking me for more donation. Warren’s team responded thanking me for my question about medicare (which I never asked about). Bernie Sanders was the only one that acknowledged my email about H1B but he has not spoken or address the issue. I’m sure that if a group of people will write to Trump about this – that he will do something more than the 1/4 decline in H1B visas.

  6. The need for H1B program is a straw man, and has been for a long time. There are plenty of American workers trained in Tech professions that could easily perform in these jobs. The real issue is business are trying to hire these HIB’ers as a cheap alternative to hiring Americans, plain and simple. In addition, the two year time line is also a farce, as soon as they get here they are applying for green cards. Like others here I support just getting rid of the program and let business operating in America hire Americans.

  7. Having previously worked in the financial sector (@BofA hq), I watched pretty much 80% of American tech workers at my location be replaced by Indians of fair-to-middlin competency. Management loves them because they’re cheap to hire. There are so many that are hired by the big banks that it looks like you’ve been transported to New Delhi at lunch time.

    I now work in the health care IT industry, and management has started using ‘off-shore resources’ to help get our list of software defects down. The ratio is about 2:1 in favor of the Indians. The problem is that the majority of the off-shore people are inexperienced, don’t understand English, and are actually pretty condescending and contemptuous of American workers. Even more so when it comes to women. It’s a very misogynistic culture.

    There’s a huge scam being run by the Indian corporations bringing these workers on. Candidate resumes tend to have sections of ‘experience’ duplicated. The mastery of particular languages are conveniently listed to match the employer reqs, and 20 year olds list years of experience. These ‘developers’ are put through classes where they memorize typical interview questions… by the hundreds. Admittedly, that’s quite an admirable skill. If only they could program.

    These companies typically set groups up with a ‘lead’ programmer who can field questions from the group and tell them what to do. So basically we’re bringing in H-1Bs for on-the-job training that should be given to domestic tech workers.

    In my local area there’s another scam being run by spouses. (My guess is that it’s an organized network.)
    Women show up in saris with their kids, holding a sign stating that they’re hungry and unemployed. They move from grocery store to grocery store and seem to make a good hourly salary… paid for by naive citizens.

    The degree of corruption around all of this just boggles the mind.

      • A recruiter told me that last year more than 100 H1Bs (Indians I assume) were let go by a big US bank on their first day at work, because they were not the same people who had showed up at the in person interview, and did not know anything.

        I am wondering how many H1Bs stayed on the job, after someone else took the in person interview for them, and were not completely clueless.

      • John Doe re: “An agent told me what she had heard from one of her big clients, that 10 Indian resumes all had the exact same wording with only the person’s name and contact info different.”

        They have been doing this since the DOT COM time. This is an effort for the last 20 years. I could successfully argue and defend that is a foreign nation is systematically disabling our country through an organized effort to replace our workforce with their own. They have collaborative strategic meetings discussing this agenda. Only a very few companies control what happens over in India, it’s a deception that Congress is either a part of (from corruption) or TOO STUPID to see. Either way, it’s bad and we must fight back.

  8. If H1Bs are totally restricted, then jobs will move eventually from US to India. If jobs are moving out, then for what jobs will the current/future STEM graduates apply for?
    Corporations does not care who does the job, their only goal is to make profit for their share holder.
    Restricting H1B is not the solution. Motivation for most US based companies to hire H1B is because they are indentured. GreenCard backlog has severely hampered H1B’s ability to change jobs. Fix greed card backlog, that will open up a pandora box of jobs!!

    it only makes sense to have those jobs here and prepare the future STEM graduates to compete for them.

    • I have had to work with them remotely. I have also had to work with eastern europeans. The ones I worked with in India, I had to manage 16/7. Workers in India might be cheap but they need to be managed on a full-time basis. They are also not that great compared to some eastern europeans I worked with. Hands-down, I am also a lot better than them.

      Possible Solutions:
      1. There should be a system where all of us can see the JDs (a US-wide online system) and apply for these jobs, before they allow a H1B Visa. Make the system open and transparent to us americans who are affected by this program.
      2. They should allow us to comment on the rate being offered.
      3. They should also allow whistleblowers’ reports on abuses – and publish these online.
      4. Government should require higher fees for each H1B and allocate those fees into a scholarship pot that deserving americans can apply for. Better yet, for each H1b worker – company should pay for College education of 1 American in STEM. Afterall these GAFA companies have been avoiding taxes in the U.S.
      5. For one H1b worker brought in, the company should be required to bring in at least 1 american STEM graduate who they must train.
      6. Government can give tax breaks to companies that hire americans than H1b.
      7. Abolish this H4 program.
      8. decrease the number of H1b visas

      These are just rough ideas. I’m quite sure that it is NOT impossible to define a program to stop the H1B abuses.

      • Most of Europeans(eastern and rest of continent) are aging workers. They are far more experienced in jobs and culturally they connect better with Americans as their culture is already a big part of this country. Indians workers are younger and few may need hand holding due to cultural differences. Few resources are simply bad from Europe and India. Most managers are aware of this and they change their style to operate better with resources in hand.

        H1B is a program which is running for more than 25 years. Earlier not many Indians were applying for it and hence it never hit ceiling of the number of H1’s for a year. This implies rest of the world were never interested in H1B or disinterested to come into America. Perhaps they did not have those many STEM graduates in their country or other personal reasons. Only in the last decade there are lot more Indians and Chinese applying for it and hence it is oversubscribed.

        Your socialistic suggestions above are not feasible in a capitalist country. if they were to be implemented then corporations will simply relocate to Canada, India and China. This means even Americans who are currently holding their jobs will lose them. Not to mention the domino affect of this on other business and and economy.

        Securing an H1B is not cheap either for firms. On average they cost about 8 to 10K per year for a resource. H1B fees is not for work authorization alone, they are also pay additional money to secure of borders of america. Along with Fed and State taxes, H1B’s also pay unemployment and social security taxes which they are not eligible to claim. Currently their unclaimed contribution to SS has exceeded more than a billion $$.

        • Nothing socialistic about what I suggested. Let’s look at item by item:

          1. There should be a system where all of us can see the JDs (a US-wide online system) and apply for these jobs, before they allow a H1B Visa. Make the system open and transparent to us americans who are affected by this program.
          2. They should allow us to comment on the rate being offered.
          3. They should also allow whistleblowers’ reports on abuses – and publish these online.

          Items 1-3: What is socialistic about making the system open and transparent for americans? Afterall ,aren’t they suppose to give priority to americans before granting a H1B? There is nothing socialistic about whistleblowers outing abuses.

          4. Government should require higher fees for each H1B and allocate those fees into a scholarship pot that deserving americans can apply for. Better yet, for each H1b worker – company should pay for College education of 1 American in STEM. Afterall these GAFA companies have been avoiding taxes in the U.S.

          Item 4 – What’s socialistic about this? Who gets these H1B fees now? How are these fees being put to good use? When I started my career, the telecom company that employed me sent me to all sorts of schools and training. Companies have stopped grooming and ‘growing’ their ‘stem’ employees capabilities because why should they when they can just get cheap H1b workers?

          Understandably companies want to save money. Saving money means using cheap H1B workers than hiring local workers. But the government must look longterm. H1B program has depressed income of local people; thereby decreasing their spending power.

          5. For one H1b worker brought in, the company should be required to bring in at least 1 american STEM graduate who they must train.

          Nothing socialistic about this. I said ‘train’. After all, isn’t this what we do to H1B workers when they first arrive at the scene?

          6. Government can give tax breaks to companies that hire americans than H1b.

          Is giving a tax break to a company socialistic? Of course not.

          • As of June 2019 there are over 700,000 unfilled Tech jobs in the US. There is no US workforce in place to take these jobs. For 19 consecutive months, there have been more jobs open than unemployed people looking for work in the US. We have a trained worker shortage in the US, particularly in the tech workforce, and it is only going to get worse as more and more of our daily lives become entangled with technology. Until we get more US children to pursue tech degrees, we will not be able to fill these jobs with our own citizens – thus the H1-B visa is a viable solution.

          • Mark’s post does not have a reply button. So I am replying here about his “there are 700,000 unfilled tech jobs.

            If this is so, then there is something rotten in the state of X. I have been applying for these jobs posted in DICE for a month now even including a headline that I am a U.S. citizen. Only 1 recruiter contacted me and then no communication after he asked me what I was currently earning.

            What I have noticed is that most of these DICE jobs are ‘owned’ by indian recruiters as well.

            So where are those 700,000 unfilled Tech jobs? Perhaps this list is exclusive only to Indian recruiters? Cause I don’t see them and like I said, I have sent 10’s of applications and nothing.

    • That Green Card backlog is the direct result of the over-subscription of the H1b visa by people from a couple of countries – China and India – that collides with the per-country caps on Green Card issuance.
      To correct this we have to put per-country caps on H1b visas at the same levels as for Green Cards.
      Pay attention – the latest statistics we can see on Green Card issuance by country show the truth – after people from the Americas, China and India get the most Green Cards ALREADY.

  9. If i am not mistaken, i believe this green card backlog was last cleared in 2007 when huge number of indian got their EAD and came into regular job market. Now after 11 years, backlog has ballooned again…..and it will be created again after few years and so on….unless US puts H1b under country quota and prohibit importing consultants from outside US.

  10. US is over populated. Building only apartments not widening roads causing sickness for driving hours even for shorter distances. There was no employment authorization for dependents before. US families are shortage of employment and income, Not US is short of skilled workers.
    Local Stores: Run by individuals and their family members ( family members can be on any visa or no visa, no payroll generated)
    Customer Service : Off shore to East Asian Countries or probably South America
    IT : H/L Visa or Off shore to Asia
    J1: When students are here why u need to bring people for work and research from outside?
    There are thousands of talented students coming out of schools every year. Each politician should think about US Citizens first.

  11. They SELL the spouse visa to a woman acquaintance in India and then marry for convenience. Then they come over, and she works and pays the man a stipend every month for the spouse visa … he makes money, they stay friends and India doesn’t recognize any marriage outside of India, so they go home on holidays and live with their real wives.

  12. H1-B holders in the United States can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship. We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US.

    – Donald J. Trump ( tweeted )

  13. None of the employers are obligated to hire H-1B or H-4 workers in this country. Employers are willing to hire them because at the time of hiring they pick the most qualified candidate. There are also prevailing wage laws enforced by the Department of Labor, so H-1B workers are not hired because it is cheaper to hire them. They get paid the market rate. There is no excuse for the local/American applicants to educate themselves more or better to get qualified. If I recall it correctly, only 29% of computer engineers graduated last year was US-born. This is a free market, a free job market. Employers will always hire the best and most qualified regardless of the visa/citizenship status. It is a tremendous advantage for the US to have an increasingly competitive job market. Competitiveness will keep us ahead of the World, solidify our place as the leader of the World in all areas. If US-born applicants cannot live up to this expectation then they should take another look at themselves, instead of blaming others for willing to go the extra mile. Again, please remember that nobody is threatening employers at gunpoint to hire candidates who require visa sponsorships. Employers WANT to hire them.

    • Sorry but your post is full of sh*t. There are less qualified US applicants because they have to pay exorbitant tuition fees compared to what we paid before.

      H1B has been abused for many decades now and even the former H1Bs that have become residents/citizens are complaining about it.

      • Ohh please educate yourself and stop whining! This sentence of yours is total bullsh*t: “There are less qualified US applicants because they have to pay exorbitant tuition fees compared to what we paid before.”

        All international students are required to pay “out of state” tuition and they have to be enrolled full-time. Most of them don’t come from countries whose economies are doing as great as the US economy does. These students pay a much HIGHER price to come here and get the same degree that an American student would also get for half the tuition. International students are not even qualified to get a loan in the US unless they have an American co-signer.

        Instead of complaining, maybe try focusing on fixing college admissions bribing scandals for the top 1% dumb white privileged families’ kids first!

        • And yet the H1B entrants get their training and education in India.

          Amazing how you obfuscate the issue by NOT comparing the price of education in the U.S. to training and education in India or even Europe (where it is almost free).

          IDGAF about international students. What americans pay for education is obscene considering they then lose out on the jobs because of companies bringing in H1B workers.

  14. The best way to curtail H1b/EAD is to increase the minimum salary to $130000/yr. Whatever happened to that bill. That’s the best way to send these bast@rds back to India. Because of them software engineering as a career sucks. The absolute worst are South Indians especially Telgus. They get an H1B promptly get married and get a big dowry and bring their ugly wives in EAD. And why the hell is QA and Project Managers eligible for H1b. Any idiot can do that. I will vote for anyone who cancels this horrible program. In fact they should make it retroactive and deport anyone who was ever on H1b ever