US President Donald Trump has been attempting to stop work permits for spouses of those on H-1B visas. It won’t be easy. But were he to succeed, the overwhelming impact would be on Indian women. And Cato Institute, a US public policy research organization, estimates it would contract the US economy by at least $7.5 billion annually.
David J Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Centre for Global Liberty and Prosperity, says in a blog that nearly 90% of H-4 workers (spouses of H-1Bs get the H-4 visa) are highly paid women from India with college degrees. He says if Trump succeeded and if the move encouraged their H-1B families to leave the country, the impact would be more than double the $7.5 billion estimated for women ceasing to work.

H-4 visas have been around for decades. But for much of that period, there was no specific mention of their eligibility for employment in the US. In 2015, the Obama administration created an employment authorization document (EAD) provision for H-4 to encourage those on H-1Bs to stay on in the US (if spouses find it difficult to work, then it disincentivizes H-1Bs – who tend to be highly talented specialists – from staying on).