Over 90% H-4 Visa Holders Receiving U.S. Work Permits in 2015-17 were Indians

A total of 26,668 H-4 visa holders were granted work authorization in the fiscal year of 2015, and the number rose to 31,638 in 2016, according to a report by Migration Policy Institute.


As many as 71,287 spouses of H-1B visa holders were issued work authorization documents by the United States between 2015 and 2017, out of which 93 per cent were from India, according to a report by Migration Policy Institute that was released on March 28.

In the fiscal year of 2015, a total of 26,668 H-4 visa holders — the spouses of H1-B visa holders — were granted work authorization. In 2016, the number was 31,638, while till February 2017, 12,981 spouses received work authorization.

The report, titled Evolution of the H-1B: Latest Trends in a Program on the Brink of Reform, said that out of those H-4 spouses who had been granted work authorization till early 2017, 94 per cent were women, and 93 per cent were from India, while 4 per cent were from China.

With more workers staying for longer periods in  the United States as they wait for a green card, there is a growing pool of H-1B visa holders in the country who renew their visa beyond the typical six-year limit. “Even as Indian renewals are rising, with Indian workers representing 80 percent of petitions approved for continuing work, the brief also finds that Chinese immigrants represent growing numbers of initial applicants,” the report said.

In the financial year of 2016, a total of 185,489 H-1B petitions were approved for Indian nationals already in the H-1B status, which is more than 80 per cent of all petitions approved for continuing employment.

“With demand for H-1B high-skilled visas far outstripping supply, employers are gearing up to mail in applications on April 2, the day the lottery opens this year for 85,000 of the temporary visas,” the report said.

However, most H-1B visas are awarded outside the cap, with an average 212,000 such petitions approved annually in the last five years. A total of 345,262 H-1B petitions were approved in fiscal 2016, including 230,759 in uncapped categories — the highest level yet.

The increase in the uncapped categories results mainly from petitions by continuing workers, many of whom are in extended H-1B stays as they await a green card, especially Indian immigrants, who face average waits of 9 to 11 years depending on the green card category.

Almost one-third of all approved H-1B petitions in fiscal 2017 went to only 20 companies, although 40,645 firms were approved to sponsor H-1B visas that year. “The top employers are either foreign consulting firms, some accused of using the visa to outsource US jobs, or US high-tech giants such as Amazon, Apple and Google,” the report added.

H-4 visa holders received work authorization in 2015 during the Barack Obama era, a policy that the Trump administration has signaled it wants to put an end to. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a court filing earlier this year that it was reviewing the economic impact of terminating work authorization for H4 visa holders and has pushed back terminating the permit till June.

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