On the immigration reform enacted by President Obama, BBC News writes (emphasis mine):

The question, of course, is just how much the US economy could benefit from President Obama's proposal, which would give an estimated four million immigrants who are here illegally a path towards legal status, as well as reforming part of the visa process that allows high-skilled workers primarily in technology fields to work in the US.

The article goes on to outline some details of this reform:

The biggest change is that the spouses of H1B visas, who had previously been banned from working in the US, will now be allowed to look for work - adding potentially tens of thousands of highly educated women to the workforce.

The changes will also allow students to stay longer.

Media coverage has focussed primarily on giving legal status to undocumented migrant workers. My question is on the second part of the reform. What are the consequences of reforming part of the visa process allowing high-skilled (technology) migrant workers to work in the USA, apart from the two changes already mentioned?

2 Answers 2


Not significant. H4 will only be eligible for EAD if the H1b sponsor is in the green card process. From the DHS announcement:

Eligible individuals would include H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B workers who:

  • Are the beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • Have been granted an extension of their authorized period of stay in the United States under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21) as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. AC21 permits H-1B workers seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit.

Generally, Obama cannot change the law. Since the law is silent on EADs for H4s - he could make this subtle change, but he cannot drastically change the status quo. Despite all what you've heard in the news, the changes are mostly based on shifting priorities in enforcing laws, which is within his right.


There clearly is difference between what has been promised, and what has been actually implemented as of now.

The change for H-4 holders mentioned by BBC and which littleadv links to in his answer, is one of the promises. Legally it's still only a proposal. While it's expected to be in effect within few months, right now it's nothing more than a political promise, and should only be treated as such.

As of now, the only changes already in effect impacts only very specific subset of undocumented immigrants.

  • 1
    That's proposed rule - which is a stage in finalizing regulations. It's not a "proposal" like "let's do something", it's more of "we're doing this, you have 60 days to object".
    – littleadv
    Dec 4, 2014 at 8:22
  • @littleadv: which is exactly why I'm saying that it's only a political promise, as Republicans have majority in the Congress.
    – vartec
    Dec 4, 2014 at 18:51
  • no, this is a proposed rule, has nothing to do with Republicans or Congress. The government agencies follow a specific procedure in rule making, and "proposed rule" is one of the steps. This is not a political promise, this is a step in the bureaucracy towards finalizing the rule. The decision has been made, and unless something drastic happens - it is not going to change.
    – littleadv
    Dec 5, 2014 at 3:27

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