U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently reached a major settlement agreement that provides significant changes to employment authorization benefits for H-4, E, and L dependent spouses.

Background

A lawsuit (Shergill, et al v. Mayorkas) was filed against USCIS to address the extreme processing delays of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for H-4 and L-2 dependent spouses who suffered from lapses in employment authorization due to USCIS backlogs.

Pursuant to regulations at 8 CFR 274a.13(d), employment authorization can be automatically extended under certain circumstances. Under the settlement agreement, USCIS has updated its interpretation of this provision to provide an automatic extension of employment authorization to certain H-4, E, and L dependent spouses.

Policy Guidance

Effective November 12, 2021, USCIS policy guidance outlines the following employment authorization benefits for certain H-4, E, and L dependent spouses:

  • Automatic Extension of EAD
    • H-4, E, or L dependent spouses will qualify for an automatic extension of their EAD for up to 180 days if they had properly filed a timely EAD renewal application, and they have a Form I-94 showing their valid H-4, E, or L status.
    • Automatic extension of the EAD will continue until the earlier of the following:
      • The status end date on Form I-94;
      • The approval or denial of the EAD renewal application; or
      • 180 days from the expiration date of the prior EAD.
  • Employment Authorization Incident to Status for E and L Dependent Spouses
    • E and L dependent spouses will be employment authorized incident to their status, which means they will have automatic work authorization as part of their valid status and are no longer required to file an EAD application.
    • USCIS will implement this change by modifying Form I-94 to include a notation indicating employment authorized status for E and L dependent spouses.
  • Form I-9 Verification Documentation
    • Employers may accept the following documents as evidence of automatic extension of the prior EAD:
      • Form I-94 showing valid H-4, E, or L status;
      • Form I-797C showing timely-filed EAD renewal application; and
      • Expired EAD issued under the same eligibility category (Category A17, A18, or C26).