In a class action suit settlement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has agreed to automatically issue work authorizations for spouses of L1 visa holders. Additionally, dependents on H4 visas will receive automatic employment authorization extensions while their employment authorization renewal application is pending. This will completely change how United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicates work authorization for nonimmigrant H4 and L-2 spouses.
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According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), spouses of primary beneficiaries H1-B and L1 visas are eligible to get derivative work visas. This means that after meeting certain eligibility criteria, they are allowed to work for any employer in the US.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) demanding that USCIS give L2 and H4 dependent visa holders an automatic EAD when applicable.
Current Problem With H4 EAD Extensions
USCIS is supposed to process these work visa applications within 30 days. However, due to severe processing delays coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic shutdowns, the processing times has led to massive backlogs. Processing now takes up to a year. The H4 EAD visa, for example is issued for 3 years, but with extensions taking over a year for approval, these H4 visa holders have been losing their jobs and families are losing a major source of income. By the time they get their work permits in hand, it’s got barely 6 months left on it.
President Trump had issued a new rule that H4 EAD holders had to get their biometrics taken if they wanted to renew their work permit. This added to the delays for getting biometric appointments was a whole another backlogged system.
New Rule For H4 Visa Holders
Now that the class action suit has been won in favor of H4 EAD, they will now be eligible to get an automatic six-month extension on their EAD while their application is pending adjudication. This auto-extension will be based on the validity period listed on Form I-94, the expired EAD, and Form I-797C receipt notice for any individual with a timely filed I-765 EAD renewal.
USCIS is expected to revise I-765 EAD receipt notices issued to individuals on valid H4 visa statuses within 120 days of the settlement agreement’s effective date.
New Rule For L2 Visa Holders
Similarly, USCIS will soon be replacing the current policy for L2 visa holders wherein they had to apply for a work permit. Amending this policy, L2 spouses will have automatic work authorization. They no longer need to apply for employment authorization. The new rule will indicate on the I-94 that the bearer is an L2 spouse so that the form can be used as a List C document for Form I-9 verification purposes.
120 days after the settlement agreement’s effective date, USCIS will coordinate with US Customs and Border Protection to change Form I-94 accordingly.
This is fantastic news for dependent visa holders who will now be spared from the backlogs at USCIS.