The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that beginning on May 26, 2015, H-4 non-immigrant visa holders can apply for employment authorization (Employment Authorization Card, or EAD) if the H-1B spouse has reached certain milestones in the lawful permanent residence process.
Who will be eligible for the H-4 EAD?
An H-4 spouse will be eligible for employment authorization if the primary H-1B worker (1) is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker or (2) has been granted a one year extension of H-1B status beyond the six-year limit based on a labor certification application (PERM) that has been pending with the Department of Labor for over one year. Children of H-1B holders will not be eligible to apply for work authorization under this provision.
What is the application process for the H-4 EAD?
Applicants will file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS with a fee of $380, evidence of their current H-4 status, documentation of the relationship with the H-1B spouse, and evidence that the H-1B spouse is the beneficiary of an approved I-140 or has been granted an extension of H-1B status beyond the six-year limit. Premium processing of the application for the EAD will not be available.
Upon approval of the application, the H-4 will be issued an EAD that is valid until the end of the approved period of stay. An H-4 EAD holder will be eligible to work for any employer in the United States.
Why did DHS provide work authorization for H-4 spouses?
The DHS announced that providing certain H-4 spouses with the ability to work is expected to “reduce the economic burdens and personal stresses H-1B non-immigrants and their families may experience during the transition from non-immigrant to lawful permanent resident status, and facilitate their integration into American society.” DHS expects that this will reduce “the number of H-1B non-immigrants who abandon efforts to remain in the United States while seeking lawful permanent residence, which will minimize disruptions to U.S. businesses employing them.” According to DHS, the change will “support the U.S. economy because the contributions H-1B non-immigrants make to entrepreneurship and science help promote economic growth and job creation. The rule also brings “U.S. immigration policies more in line with those laws of other countries that compete to attract similar highly skilled workers.”
USCIS will begin accepting applications for H-4 EADs on May 26, 2015. For a link to the DHS announcement, please click here.