The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will extend eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment based lawful permanent resident status effective May 26, 2015.  The change is expected to reduce the economic burdens faced by H-1B nonimmigrants and their families during their transition from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident status and minimize disruptions to U.S. businesses employing such workers.

Eligible individuals include H-4 spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are either 1) the beneficiary of an approved I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or 2) are holding H-1B status under AC21 sections 106(a) or (b).  If eligible, H-4 dependent spouses must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with supporting evidence and the required fee in order to receive employment authorization. 

DHS anticipates the move will encourage H-1B nonimmigrants to remain in the U.S. while seeking permanent resident status.  Further, by extending eligibility for employment authorization, the U.S. will bring its immigration policies for highly skilled workers closer in line with the laws of other countries trying to attract similar workers.

Jenna Stras Baranko.