Employment Authorization for Eligible H-4 Nonimmigrants

What’s Happening

USCIS recently announced that, beginning on May 26, 2015, certain spouses of H-1B visa holders will be permitted to apply for work authorization.

Who this Helps

To qualify, the  H-1B spouse must meet one of two conditions:

  1. The spouse must have an I-140 petition filed and approved on his or her behalf; or
  2. The spouse must have been the recipient of an one-year extension of H-1B status based on the filing of a PERM labor certification or I-140 petition on his or her behalf (“AC-21 extension”). 

USCIS will begin accepting applications for employment authorization for qualified H-4 spouses on May 26th.

If the spouse of a qualified H-1B visa holder wishes to apply for work authorization, they must either be in H-4 nonimmigrant status or file an application for a change of status to H-4 nonimmigrant status.

How to Apply

Work authorization will not automatically be granted to qualified H-4 spouses.  Eligible H-4 visa holders must file an I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS. The application must be accompanied by evidence that the H-1B spouse is the beneficiary of an approved I-140 petition or a one-year AC-21 H-1B extension, along with proof of the marital relationship and documentation showing that both spouses are currently in H-1B and H-4 status.  

Things to Keep in Mind

USCIS will not begin accepting Form I-765 EAD applications from eligible H-4 visa holders until May 26, 2015. H-4 visa holders cannot begin working until they have received their USCIS-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which typically takes 90-120 days from the date of filing, but can be longer.  The EAD should be valid through the expiration of their H-4 status (up to three years) and allows the H-4 visa holder to obtain a U.S. Social Security Number and serves as evidence of eligibility to work lawfully in the United States for any U.S. employer.