For years, I have fielded calls from excited H-1B beneficiaries who say that they heard that the rules will change to allow for work permits (also called EADs, short for employment authorization documents) for H-4 spouses (dependents of H-1B beneficiaries). All these years I have had to give the bad news that H-4s are not eligible for work authorization and that there was no such proposal in the works.
However, we are thrilled that yesterday (May 6, 2014), the Department of Homeland Security announced that they would soon publish a proposed rule that would allow certain H-4 dependent spouses to apply for employment authorization (EAD). Eligible H-4 dependents would include:
– Those whose spouses have an approved I-140 petition, and
– Those whose spouses have been granted a post-6th year (H-1B) extension of stay based on AC21. A post-6th year H-1B extension is available for those beneficiaries who have an approved I-140 petition (see above), or who filed a labor certification at least 365 days before the end of the sixth year (and assuming the labor certification is either approved or still pending).
This is a tremendous step forward in the right direction, and will allow thousands of H-4 spouses to work who may not otherwise have the opportunity. We are thrilled for this change!
A few key things to note:
- The change has not taken effect yet – this announcement only says that the agency will publish the proposed rule soon. The rule must go through the formal rule-making process, and could take a few months or more before it goes into effect.
- The H-4 EADs will not be available for every H-4 spouse! Only those whose H-1B spouses have an approved I-140 petition or who have filed the labor certification (see above) will qualify for the EAD. Therefore, if you are interested in obtaining an H-4 EAD, it is critical that you devise a strategy with an experienced immigration attorney so that you make sure you can take advantage of this change.
- The final regulation may be slightly different from the proposed rule; it will be important to check the final regulation when it comes into effect to make confirm the exact requirements.
We will continue to post updates on this development, and we look forward to assisting you in applying for work authorization as soon as you can! In the meantime, if you need assistance filing for permanent residence (so that you/your spouse qualifies), or with other employment-based or family-based immigration matters, please contact us today: 804-396-3412 or email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!