U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced today that it will be extending U.S. employment authorization to certain H-4 spouses of foreign nationals in H-1B status.  Family members of H-1B workers are permitted to enter the United States in H-4 status as dependents of the H-1B worker, but they are not authorized to work.  This change permits spouses in H-4 status to apply for an unrestricted work card provided that the principal H-1B employee:

  1.  Is the beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  2. Has been granted H-1B status under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21), which permits H-1B employees seeking permanent residency to extend their H-1B status beyond the usual six-years.

Applications will be accepted starting May 26, 2015, and will require a $380 filing fee.

The Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule on extending employment eligibility for H-4 dependent spouses in May 2014.  President Obama’s executive actions on immigration announced in November 2014 called for USCIS to take steps towards keeping highly skilled workers in the United States.  This new final rule is a result of this renewed effort.