Employment authorization eligibility expanded for spouses of foreign nationals on H-1B visas

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) modified the regulation to allow dependent spouses of aliens on H-1B nonimmigrant visas to work in the country.

The amendment, which begins May 26, expands eligibility for H-4 spouses who are dependents of H-1B visa holders interested in obtaining employment-based permanent resident status.

Expanding eligibility for employment authorization for certain H-4 spouses is one of several initiatives to modernize and improve visa programs intended to grow the U.S. economy and create jobs.

Eligible individuals include certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who:

* Are primary beneficiaries of a Form I-140, Immigrant Alien Worker Petition, that has been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

* Received H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000, as amended by the Department of Justice's 21st Century Budget Appropriations Authorization Act. This law allows foreign nationals on H-1B visas who wish to obtain permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit of their H-1B status.

This change is intended to reduce the economic burden and personal stresses that aliens on H-1B visas and their families may experience during the transition from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident status.

Under this rule, eligible H-4 dependent spouses must submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with supporting evidence and the required fees, which are currently $380, to obtain employment authorization and receive a Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Once the USCIS approves the Form I-765 and the H-4 dependent spouse receives an EAD, he or she may begin working in the United States.

USCIS estimates that approximately 179,000 individuals may be eligible to apply for employment authorization under this rule.

Individuals should not file an application with USCIS before May 26, which is the effective date of the new rule.