A court ruling may allow H-4 spouses to seek their own jobs

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2023 | US Immigration Law

Working in the United States as a skilled professional requires the sponsorship of an employer and someone’s ability to pass a background check. Those who secure specialty visas, like the H-1B visa for specialized professionals, can often bring their spouses with them when they enter the United States for their job.

However, there is often confusion about what rights those who enter the United States with a subordinate visa actually have. For example, there have been questions about whether someone married to an H-1B visa holder could legally work while in the United States. Thankfully, a judge has recently helped clarify the issue in federal court and potentially opened the door to gainful employment for spouses of H-1B visa holders in very specific circumstances.

What did the courts determine?

People tend to pursue relationships with others who share their values, which often means that highly educated and driven professionals marry others with similar aspirations. It is therefore a bit of an economic tragedy to bring one skilled professional to the country along with their spouse while denying that spouse an opportunity to use their skills or education.

Having a second stream of income can improve a household’s standard of living and reduce the likelihood that they would require state aid if something were to happen to the H-1B visa holder or their job. Not only would a spouse’s gainful employment benefit the family of the H-1B visa holder, but their skills and education will likely also benefit the domestic economy.

The benefits clearly influenced the ruling of the United States district judge who helped to clarify the employment rights of the spouses of workers with H-1B visas. Spouses of someone with an H-1B visa have an H-4 visa in most cases. They can potentially qualify for employment if they apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Such applications are generally only an option when the spouse with the H-1B visa is in the process of adjusting their status to become a lawful permanent resident. This ruling could affect thousands of spouses with H-4 visas, many of whom have significant education and professional experience.

Knowing the rules is key to compliance and immigration success

Visa holders and their immediate family members that travel with them must comply with domestic laws and immigration standards if they hope to renew their visas or adjust their status to become permanent residents. Understanding the limitations on certain economic activities will help those with employment visas pursue the highest standard of living and the most opportunities in the United States without undermining their right to remain in the country.