Immigration Law Blog

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Executive Action: H-4 Employment Authorization

President Obama announced that employment authorization would be given to certain H-4 dependent spouses.

  1. USCIS first proposed Federal rule on May 12, 2014 allowing for employment authorization of H-4 dependent spouses.
    The public comment period on that rule was held until July 11, 2014. Immigration advocates, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) weighed in with some criticisms.

  2. Rule Components

According to that rule, The Department of Homeland Security proposes to extend the availability of employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants.

 Employment Authorization would be limited to H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants who are in the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment, and:

  • Have an approved I-140.    or

  • Have been granted extension to authorized stay beyond 6 years under AC21 Act.  

   3.  Who is not included

  • H-4 Children;
  • H-4s whose spouses have not yet started the GC process
  • H-4s whose spouses have a pending PERM but the extension beyond the 6th year limitation has not kicked in yet. This part of the rule is not clear, and in AILA’s comments clarification was requested, so it remains to be seen.

    4.  Statistics  

  • DHS estimates the current population of H-4 dependent spouses who would be initially eligible for employment authorization under this proposed rule could be as many as 100,600.

  • In subsequent years, DHS estimates 35,900 H-4 applicants annually. 

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