Isha Vazirani

Volume 74, Issue 2, 583-606

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that beginning on May 26, 2015, certain H-4 dependents of H-1B nonimmigrants would be eligible to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The H-4 EAD program was the target of several threats and changes under the Trump Administration, which made it increasingly difficult for H-4 EAD holders to maintain uninterrupted employment authorization. These difficulties prompted several lawsuits against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), under DHS. USCIS favorably settled one such class-action lawsuit. Still, the H-4 EAD program remains only precariously in place because it was never officially codified and exists within a system of skilled immigration into the United States that has continually exploited highly skilled foreign workers, the majority of whom come from the economically disadvantaged Global South. This Note examines the instability propagated by the H-1B visa category to show that the system of skilled immigration into the United States subjects workers to precarity as a result of their transient H-1B status, increased employer control over workers’ immigration status, and the potential for wage theft. Additionally, many recent threats to the H-4 EAD and the program’s vulnerability to future manipulation indicate EAD holders’ susceptibility to further abuse.