US Congress Introduces H-4 Work Authorization Act for H-1B Spouses

On April 7, 2022, a bill entitled the H-4 Work Authorization Act was introduced in Congress. If passed, the bill would grant automatic work authorization to hundreds of thousands of H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, and H-3 spouses in the US, without the need to file a Form I-765 H-4 Employee Authorization Document (EAD).

This bipartisan piece of legislation was introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, a Democrat, and Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar of Florida, a Republican, as an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act. It is designed to eliminate labor shortages and improve the lives of H-4 spouses by allowing them to bypass the EAD approval process, which can currently take over a year, and receive immediate work authorization in the US.

According to Bourdeaux, “Right now, the spouses of highly-skilled immigrants have to fight through years of bureaucratic red tape before they are allowed to work in the United States.”

“This bill removes these needless barriers to ensure families can contribute and prosper together. If we are going to continue to be competitive and attract the greatest minds and talent around the world, we must ensure that the family members of high-value immigrants are able to build a life and career in the United States, just like everyone else.”

Endorsed by the National Immigration Forum and UnidosUS, the H-4 Work Authorization Act could come as a welcome relief to more than 100,000 spouses of Indian H-1B professionals in the United States, as well as tens of thousands of H-4 spouses from other countries. In addition, the bill could help reduce the significant backlog for EAD approvals through USCIS.

Known officially as H.R. 7442, the H-4 Work Authorization Act still has a long road ahead before it can be signed into law. The bill must first pass the U.S. House of Representatives before being introduced to the U.S. Senate. Upon Senate approval, the bill would be passed to President Biden to become law.

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