U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services announced that eligibility for employment authorization will be extended to certain H-4 dependent spouses.
The H-4 spouses must be married to H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking lawful permanent residence through an employment-based process. H-4 dependent spouses are eligible for this benefit if they are the spouse of an H-1B nonimmigrant who: (1) is the principal beneficiary of an approved I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or (2) has been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000, as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (commonly referred to as “AC-21”), which allows H-1B nonimmigrants to remain in the United States beyond the six-year maximum for H-1B status. It is important to note that the H-1B status based on AC-21 sections 106(a) and (b) must have been granted to the H-1B beneficiary prior to the H-4 dependent applying for employment authorization.
This rule will only become effective on May 26, 2015; therefore USCIS will not accept applications for this benefit until that date. To apply for employment authorization, the H-4 dependent spouse must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with the supporting evidence that establishes eligibility and the required filing fee of $380. The applicant will then receive an Employment Authorization card (Form I-766) that establishes his or her ability to work in the United States. The dependent spouse will be able to concurrently file an I-539 Application to extend his/her status, and the I-765 Application.
The grant of H-4 employment eligibility was an integral part of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which aimed to improve and modernize the immigration program. USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez spoke to the effect of this change, “It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents.” This will hopefully alleviate some of the stress and burden that occurs while an H-1B beneficiary must wait several years to complete the lawful permanent resident process due to extended backlogs.
Related Document: Employment Authorization For Certain H4 Dependent Spouses (pdf).