On February 24, 2015, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that certain H-4 nonimmigrants may soon seek employment authorization. Beginning May 26, 2015, USCIS will begin accepting applications from H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B workers who:
- Are the beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
- Have been granted H-1B status beyond the normal six-year limit based on the filing of a labor certification (PERM) application.
The new H-4 employment authorization program requires the H-1B worker to have started the permanent resident (“green card”) process, usually through an employer-sponsored petition. Because of this requirement, employers may receive requests from their H-1B workers to begin the green card process soon.
Extending employment authorization to dependent spouses, USCIS Director León Rodriguez explained, will encourage H-1B workers to stay in the United States and complete their transition from temporary workers to permanent residents, allowing U.S. businesses to retain a greater number of their highly skilled workers. The new rule will also more closely align U.S. immigration policies with the laws of other countries that compete to attract highly skilled workers.
To apply for employment authorization, H-4 nonimmigrants must file USCIS Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with supporting documentation and a filing fee of $380. Once USCIS approves the application and issues an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”), the H-4 nonimmigrant may begin working in the United States.