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Allowing Employment Authorization for H-4 Dependent Spouses
By Felicia Escobar
Thank you for signing the petition suggesting that the Obama Administration extend the availability of employment authorization to H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants.
The H-1B nonimmigrant classification allows a qualified alien to seek admission to the United States on a temporary basis to work in his or her field of expertise. We appreciate the important economic contributions H-1B nonimmigrant workers make to the United States and support using the H-1B visa program as a way to fill the need for skilled workers when American employees are unable to meet the needs of employers. The Obama Administration has also recognized that focusing solely on the H-1B program would not be an effective long-term strategy to address worker shortages in critical growth industries. That's why we are developing robust strategies for improving our Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education pipeline and fostering innovation.
On January 31, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a series of future administrative reforms -- in recognition of the one year anniversary of the White House Startup Initiative -- including reform aimed at addressing the particular issue you raised in your petition. Specifically, DHS is preparing a proposed rule that would allow employment authorization for H-4 dependent spouses of the subset of H-1B visa holders who are being sponsored by their employers for permanent residence and who have been authorized by Congress to remain in the United States until their petitions to adjust status have been adjudicated. This proposed change is an important step toward realizing the 21st Century immigration system envisioned by the President, and it reflects the Administration's continuing commitment to attracting and retaining talented and hardworking immigrants.
This Administration has consistently stood for the principle that we are both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. Throughout our history, the United States has been enriched by a steady stream of hardworking and talented people from around the world who have helped make our country the engine of the global economy. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama reiterated his deep commitment to fix our broken immigration system so that it meets our economic and national security needs. He made clear that our current immigration system requires fundamental legislative reform to strengthen our economic competiveness and create a legal immigration system that is fair and meets our diverse needs. As a part of his vision for building a 21st century immigration system (PDF), the President supports legislative measures that would attract and retain immigrants who create jobs and boost competitiveness here in the United States, including reforms to the existing employment-based immigration system and in particular strengthening our H-1B program. In the meantime, the Administration will continue to undertake available administrative reforms, such as the upcoming proposed changes to allow work authorization for some H-1B spouses.
You can help theAdministration make lasting change to our broken immigration system. President Obama is calling for a national conversation on immigration reform that builds a bipartisan consensus to fix the broken immigration system so that it works for America's 21st century economy. But he can't do it alone. He is asking you and all Americans, including business leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement leaders and others, to continue the conversation in your community, including by hosting roundtables that elevate this important conversation.
Again, thank you for making your voice heard. We greatly appreciate your interest and input on these important issues and hope that you continue to share your views with us
Felicia Escobar is Senior Policy Director for Immigration