Last year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a rule to extend employment authorization to spouses of certain H-1B workers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Â issued a press release February 24, 2015 stating that qualified H-4 visa dependents with spouse holding non-immigrant H-1 visa and seeking lawful permanent residence (LPR) can apply for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) starting May 26, 2015.
This new rule is one of many proposals in the making that will help improve visa programs, grow the US economy, and create more jobs. As a result of H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders now being eligible for employment in the US, USCIS Director LeÃ³n RodrÃguez announcement is a much awaited change from the non-immigrant visa holder community.
â€œAllowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense. It helps U.S. 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.â€
USCIS estimates that as many as 179,600 H-4 visa holders may be eligible in the first year and as many as 55,000 annually in following years.Â Since the rule is not effective until MayÂ 26, 2015, USCIS will not be accepting applications before the effective date. The usual course of granting EAD card takes about 90 days. Therefore, effectively H-4 dependents can only start working after August 26, 2015.
Eligibility for H-4 visa holder includes the spouse and primary H-1B holder:
- Principal beneficiaries of approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
- Those 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 allows H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the US past the six-year limit of their H-1B status.
H-4 dependent spouses who wish to become authorized for employment after the ruleâ€™s effective date must follow the subsequent steps:
- File Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
- Submit supporting evidence.
- Pay a $380 fee.
- Receive Form I-765, Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
- Begin working in the US.