H-4 Dependent Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants May be Eligible to Work Authorization

h-4 dependent spousesOn May 26, 2015, The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be extending employment eligibility for certain nonimmigrants in valid H-4 status. H-4 Visas are issued to dependent spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants. This extension will allow eligible dependent spouses in valid H-4 status to receive employment authorization.

This change comes as part of President Obama's immigration-based executive actions that were proposed back in November of 2014. This employment availability is intended to serve several purposes:

First, this benefit should result in more actively-employed nonimmigrants in the Unites States. This creates a positive impact on the economy. Furthermore, many would-be entrepreneurs can make the leap into small business ownership. This allows for the creation much-needed jobs.

Second, the U.S. faces difficulties in keeping skilled workers in the country because of their strict policies. Many of these skilled workers, which are on H-1B nonimmigrant status, wish their spouses could contribute to their income. In turn, these skilled workers leave jobs in the U.S. to pursue opportunities in countries with less-restrictive immigration laws. With both spouses eligible to work, the promise of better quality of life is not far off. This new policy should help keep many of these skilled workers in the U.S. and make Permanent Residency a more viable option for them and their families.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also expects this new policy to allow for easier transitions from nonimmigrant status to Permanent Residence.

According to USCIS.gov eligibility is extended to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who:

  1. Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  2. 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. The Act permits H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status.

The application process for Employment Authorization for eligible H-4 nonimmigrants will consist of completing the standard Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This application is available on USCIS website. There is also a government filing fee of $380. This application should be filed along with supporting evidence that the applicant meets the eligibility requirements. As with all Employment Authorization Applications, once the application is approved by USCIS the H-4 dependent spouse may now work in the United States. No applications should be submitted before the eligibility date which begins on May 26, 2015. This is when the new policy takes effect.