Employment Authorized for H-1B Spouses
There is exciting news for H-1B nonimmigrant visa holders! Effective May 26, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending eligibility for employment authorization to qualifying H-4 dependent spouses of those H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based legal permanent resident, or LPR, status. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 are admitted to the United States in the H-4 category.
USCIS will begin accepting applications on May 26, 2015 through the filing of Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (EAD). Once USCIS approves the Form I-765 and the H-4 dependent spouse receives an EAD, he or she may begin working in the U.S. This can independently lead to their employment-based LPR status. However, employment eligibility would not be open to all of those in H-4 status. The amendment would enable an H-4 spouse to apply for employment authorization if:
- The H-1B spouse is either the beneficiary of an approved I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or
- The H-1B spouse has been granted an extension of his or her authorized period of admission under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000, also known as AC21, as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. The Act permits H-1B nonimmigrants seeking LPR status to work and remain in the U.S. beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status.
Before the passage of this amendment, it had been extremely difficult for spouses of H-1B visa holders to work. Visa backlogs occur when there are not enough visas available for professional workers. Visa backlogs, as it pertains to the current visa bulletin, causes severe hardships for families, particularly for those from India or China. The applicants from these countries typically have to wait for approximately ten years before they can adjust status to become Permanent Residents. During that period, their spouses are unable to work because they remained in H-4 status. This led to increased frustrations in families as they were dependent on a single income. Consequently many H1-B holders abandoned their pending immigrant visa applications and returned to their home countries. Now, hopefully the economic burdens and personal stresses that H-1B nonimmigrants and their families experience during their transition to LPR status may be lessened and they can fully integrate into American society.