US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez announced on February 24, 2015, that, effective May 26, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status.

Focal point of immigration reform

The DHS amended the regulations to allow these H-4 dependent spouses to accept employment in the United States. Finalizing the H-4 employment eligibility was an important element of the immigration executive actions President Obama announced in November 2014. Extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants is one of several initiatives underway to modernize, improve and clarify visa programs to grow the US economy and create jobs.

“Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense,” Rodríguez said. “It helps US 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. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families.”

Eligibility

Eligible individuals include certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants who:

  • are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • have 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, (which permits H-1B non-immigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the statutory six-year limit in H-1B status).

Under the above-mentioned provisions, eligible H-4 dependent spouses must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with supporting evidence and the required $380 filing fee in order to obtain employment authorization and receive a Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The USCIS will begin accepting applications on May 26, 2015. Once the USCIS approves the Form I-765 and the H-4 dependent spouse receives an EAD, s/he may begin working in the United States.