A new border security and immigration bill introduced in the Senate on Sunday would allow the foreign spouses, fiancés and fiancées of U.S. citizens to automatically work in the country legally.
The 370-page-long bill, known as the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2024, would appropriate over $118 billion for new spending on border security, aid to Ukraine during its war against Russia and aid to Israel during its conflict with Hamas, among other matters. It would also enact sweeping new regulatory reforms governing both asylum and legal immigration, the latter of which includes a provision to allow foreign marital partners of U.S. citizens to obtain employment authorization immediately upon arrival in the country, as opposed to after obtaining permanent residency.
“The Secretary of Homeland Security shall authorize an alien fiancé, fiancée or spouse admitted…or any child admitted…to engage in employment in the United States,” reads the bill’s text. The use of the word “shall” as opposed to “may” indicates that the federal government must allow the foreign nationals in question to pursue employment in the country.
Since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965, the foreign national spouses of U.S. citizens have been eligible to immigrate to the United States and obtain lawful permanent residency (LPR status, commonly called a “green card”), as well as qualify for expeditious naturalization as U.S. citizens after three years of residence. These spouses, and minor children, of U.S. citizens are exempt from congressionally mandated limits on immigration to the United States every year, which some conservatives have criticized as “chain migration.”
While LPR-status persons are authorized to work, the issuance of such status often takes time and the law presently requires any spouses, fiancés and fiancées — admitted on K-status — to apply for I-765 employment authorization documents (EADs), commonly called “work permits.” The Senate bill, hence, would allow persons on K-status to automatically be granted the right to work.
That section of the bill also requires that employment authorization be issued to the foreign spouses and children of foreign non-immigrant workers on H-1B status. In 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimated that there were 583,420 foreign nationals on H-1B status in the United States, excluding their spouses and children, who are instead granted H-4 status.
“The children of H-1B visa holders with an immigrant petition are now authorized to work. Until now, only spouses could. This will help the teenagers up to 21 years old [as] dependents. Good,” wrote Daniel Di Martino, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute who focuses on immigration policy, on Twitter, now known as X.
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