Immigration Reform: H4 Visa Holders - Have Your Voice Heard!

by Tahmina Watson

The bill for Comprehensive Immigration Reform is an overall positive bill and the Gang of Senators and all involved must be applauded for their efforts. The Bill covers a lot of details. Some of it was fought with much negotiation. With that background, it is easy to see that some sacrifice and compromise is inevitable for the greater good.

Having said that, there are some provisions in the bill that really need a little tweaking. Let’s take the provision that will allow spouses of H1b visa holders (H4 visa holders) work authorization. At first glance, it seems that they will all get permission to work. Hooray, I hear you say! But wait. Reading the details actually state the following:

At Section 4102 of the Bill, it is stated regarding spouses of H1b visa holders- “authorize the alien spouse to engage in employment in the United States only if such spouse is a national of a foreign country that permits reciprocal employment; and provide such a spouse with an ‘employment authorized’ endorsement or other appropriate work permit, if appropriate.”

Well, in my opinion (and I will be researching this in due course) it will be hard to find many countries that allow the spouse of a US citizen worker in that country work permission automatically. So, the vast majority of H4 visa holders will be excluded from getting work permission. See today’s article by Ms. Lornet Turnbull in The Seattle Times covering this issue.

Many employment-based visas already allow spouses work permission. For example, L1 and E2 visas. The bill will allow (the newly created) W visa spouses work permission. Then why exclude such an important group? More often than not, this group is highly educated and productive. If the bill goes as far as stating spouses will get a work visa, then why not go that much further and actually allow them to get a work visa. I recommend that the caveat that the foreign country must permit recipricol employment is deleted.

I urge Congress to review this provision and make the above amendment. I also urge anyone interested or affected to call your Senator’s office and voice your concern. Now is the time to do it! If you are in Washington State, I am including contact details of our Senators information below. Please call them. It is now or never!

Senator Patty Murray email contact form plus state offices contact info:

Senator Maria Cantwell state offices contact info:

Senator Maria Cantwell email contact form:

Originally posted on the Watson Immigration Law Blog. Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Tahmina Watson is an immigration attorney and founder of Watson Immigration Law in Seattle Washington. She was a practicing barrister in London, UK, before immigrating to the United States herself. While her practice includes family-based and employment-based immigration, she has a strong focus on immigrant entrepreneurs and start-up companies. She can be contacted at You can visit to learn about Tahmina and her practice.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.