Repealing H-4 Visa Work Authorization: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

30 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2019 Last revised: 8 Apr 2019

See all articles by Ike Brannon

Ike Brannon

The Jack Kemp Foundation

M. Kevin McGee

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh

Date Written: April 2, 2019


In 2015 the Obama Administration authorized temporary work permits for the spouses of H-1B visa holders who were awaiting green cards. Over 90,000 of these H-4 visa holders have since received a work permit,1 known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and three-fourths of them are gainfully employed.

In 2017 the Trump administration announced that it intends to repeal the rule providing this work authorization. This February the administration followed through on that announcement with a notice of proposed rulemaking. The administration’s stated reason for repealing the rule is that it would create more jobs for U.S. citizens.

We believe a thorough benefit-cost analysis, as required under Executive Order 12866, would find this justification unfounded. Ending the ability of these workers – who are, by and large, well-educated and high-skilled – to hold jobs in the United States would at best have no net effect on U.S. citizens’ employment and likely would reduce their employment and wages. Further, ending EADs would hurt the U.S. economy and U.S. taxpayers.

Keywords: Work Authorization, Cost-Benefit Analysis

JEL Classification: H60

Suggested Citation

Brannon, Ike and McGee, M. Kevin, Repealing H-4 Visa Work Authorization: A Cost-Benefit Analysis (April 2, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Ike Brannon (Contact Author)

The Jack Kemp Foundation ( email )

1200 New Hampshire Avenue N.W.
suite 800
Washington, DC 20036
United States

M. Kevin McGee

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh ( email )

800 Algoma Blvd
Oshkosh, WI WI 54901
United States

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