For once, we are very happy to report that our breaking news is good news for a change. Last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez announced that the Department of Homeland Security will be implementing the needed regulations to extend work authorization eligibility to certain H-4 spouses of H-1B workers. Until now, hundreds of thousands of these spouses had been unable to apply for work authorization on the basis of their H-4 status. This announcement comes as great news for these foreign nationals, and for the many American businesses that will benefit from the ability to hire these workers.
The Journey to H-4 Work Authorization
A number of H-4 spouses have been in the U.S. for several years, and during that time many of them have obtained Master’s degrees, law degrees, and Ph.D. degrees from prestigious U.S. universities. Additionally, these foreign nationals also usually have work experience in critical fields that they gained while living in their home countries. Thus, the skills, knowledge, and experience that many H-4s possess make them a tremendous yet untapped resource for American businesses seeking to hire talented prospective workers.
Many members of Congress and American companies recognized this untapped potential years ago, and the idea of extending work authorization eligibility to H-4s has been discussed in the national arena over the past few years. However, it did not become a reality until President Obama announced his executive orders in November 2014, which included the provisions for the H-4 work authorization.
The EAD Application Process
The specific application process for the H-4s to obtain their employment authorization documents (EADs) has not yet been set in stone by USCIS. However, it can be assumed that the process will require the H-4 to provide USCIS with a completed Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and the $380 filing fee that USCIS collects to process these applications.
Additionally, the H-4s will likely need to provide proof of their own H-4 status (such as a copy of their H-4 visa, I-94 card, or I-539 Approval Notice), and proof that their H-1B spouse is the beneficiary of an approved I-140 Petition for a business visa, or that the spouse has been granted an extension of his or her H-1B status pursuant to one of the sections of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (this law is commonly referred to as AC21).
USCIS predicts that it will receive nearly 180,000 H-4 EAD applications in 2015 alone, with a projected 55,000 additional applications in subsequent years.
It is important to emphasize that USCIS will not begin accepting applications for H-4 EADs until May 26, 2015. Any application received by USCIS before that date will be rejected and returned to the applicant.
The implementation of the H-4 EAD regulations is very, very good news for both H-4 foreign nationals and American companies alike. Continue to check with our blog for the most up to date news on the executive action and all other immigration-related issues.
More Blog Posts
The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Executive Order, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012