The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced that, effective May 26, 2015, the agency is extending employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants.

Only H-4 individuals whose H-1B spouses have reached a certain stage in the employment-based immigration process are eligible to apply for work authorization. H-4 spouses will be eligible to apply for work authorization if:

  • The H-1B principal nonimmigrant is the beneficiary of an approved I-140, immigrant visa petition; or
  • The H-1B principal nonimmigrant has been granted H-1B status under section 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (“AC 21”).

Section 106(a) of AC 21 permits H-1B nonimmigrants to extend their status beyond the 6-year maximum period if 365 days or more have passed since the filing of a labor certification or immigrant visa petition on their behalf. Section 106(b) permits these extensions in increments of one year.

Eligible H-4 dependent spouses must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with evidence documenting eligibility, and the required $380 fee. It typically takes United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) approximately 90 days from the date of filing to issue an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”). If an H-4 spouse doesn’t have any other type of US work authorization, he or she may not undertake employment until the EAD has been issued.

USCIS will begin accepting applications on May 26, 2015.