Sat. Dec 9th, 2023

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The United States may start losing talented H1-B visa holders to Canada

3 min read
reduce visa wait times

The US might begin losing talented H1-B visa holders, especially those married to other talented professionals, to Canada, another review has cautioned.

Canada, which awards work authorization to spouses of all skilled foreign workers, has become a favorite among migrants, especially from India.

By giving work authorization to all spouses of H-1B visa holders, the US can empower more skilled migrants. Indians, including Indians, choose the US over Canada, the study by National Foundation for American Policy revealed.

The US can reap significant economic benefits, ease labor shortages, and attract more workers in the global competition for talent. If it extended current rules on work eligibility for the spouses of H-1B visa holders. The review, composed by Madeline Zavodny, said.

The number of Indians who became permanent residents in Canada expanded by over 115% between 2016 and 2020 and 2021.

In 2015, then-President Barack Obama allowed the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US via the H4 (dependent) visa.

Talented H1-B visa holders

H4 visas are issued to dependent spouses and children who go with H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, and H-3 visa holders to the US.

The spouses of H-1B visa holders tend to be highly educated, many of them in STEM fields. Previously had careers of their own or worked to support their families.

“Allowing the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work upon arrival would help recruit and retain skilled workers. Also, increase the already-considerable economic benefits of the H-1B visa category,” Zavodny said.

She gauges that very nearly 90% of the spouses of H-1B visa holders have at least a bachelor’s degree. And over half have an advanced degree, based on American Community Survey data (2017-2019).

Out of this 90% of spouses, 66% are from India and 6 percent are from China.

“Almost half of the spouses of likely H-1B visa holders who have a bachelor’s degree had a STEM-related major. Among spouses of likely H-1B visa holders who are employed, 42% are working in a STEM field,” she noted.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guideline issued in 2015 allows spouses who hold an H4 visa to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

At present, H4 spouses can apply for an EAD after their H-1B spouse is in the line for a permanent visa.

That typically doesn’t happen until the H-1B has worked in the US for a long time; to be sure, a few spouses might apply only after their H-1B spouse has worked in the US for at least six years.

The H4 visa holder should be selected in the H-1B lottery. Which just happens one time each year and has low odds of success.


Long delays in processing H4 EADs have plagued the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). And the spouses who need approval to work.

Spouses of workers who hold an L-1 intracompany transferee visa, an E-1 treaty trader. E-2 treaty investors or an E-3 specialty occupation worker with an Australia visa are allowed to work.

Also, spouses of these visa holders are “considered employment authorized incident to status”. That is, their visa allows them to work and they don’t have to apply independently for an EAD.

Since mid-2015, exactly 171,000 H-4 visa holders have been approved for employment authorization, a critical part of whom are from India.

In financial 2021, Indians bagged the largest number of H1B visas i.e., more than 74% of the portions.

[US visa processing time likely to significantly fall by mid-2023]

Out of 4.07 lakh, H1-B visas approved by the USCIS, 3.01 lakh were allotted to Indians though, and 50,000 Chinese got the visas.

Research shows that the H-1B visa category knocks up economic development. It creates jobs for American workers and slows back the offshoring of high-paid jobs.

“If allowed to work, these spouses would make significant commitments to the US labor market. As the majority of them would enter occupations with extremely low unemployment rates and high job vacancy rates,” says Zavodny.

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