On May 26, 2015, The Department of Homeland Security began accepting applications from certain H-4 dependent spouses for employment authorization. According to the new rule, the H-4 dependent can apply for employment authorization if his or her H-1B nonimmigrant spouse is the principal beneficiary of an approved I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. This petition is used in the employment-based green card process and results in approval of eligibility for a green card. However, many nonimmigrants must continue to wait for a green card number to become available before filing the I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The second requirement under the new H-4 EAD rule is that the H-1B principal applicant must be granted H-1B status under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000, as amended, (AC21) to extend the H-1B beyond the six-year limit on H-1Bs. What this means in plain English is that the H-4 work authorization is only available to the spouses of H-1B holders who have been approved for a green card and who have been required to wait beyond the normal six-years of an H-1B due to extended priority date wait times to adjust status to a permanent resident.
To assist potential applicants, USCIS developed the website Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses. On this site, specific information can be found about the eligibility requirements for applicants, how to apply, what evidence to submit, form filing tips, translation requirements and a description of the validity of the employment authorization. It also provides links to valuable information, such as the instructions to form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, the Form itself, form filing addresses and information about the I-140 and H-1B. USCIS also developed a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page for H-4 spouses, which describes the rights an EAD holder has. It also clearly defines that the EAD is unrestricted employment, meaning that the H-4 can work in any industry or can be self-employed. The H-4 does not require sponsorship and has the ability to renew the EAD as long as the I-140 is valid and pending. Both resources provide answers to questions that are likely to crop up as more H-4 spouses begin to take advantage of this new rule.