H-4 Spouses and Dependents

Reminder:  Effective today, May 26, 2015, the Immigration Service will accept applications for employment authorization from “certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants”. (Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses Web page).

An H-4 spouse may only apply for an EAD (employment authorization document) if the H-4’s H-1B spouse is pursuing US permanent residence.  More specifically, the H-4 spouse may not file an EAD application unless the H-1B spouse:

  • Is the principal beneficiary of an approved I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, OR
  • Has H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (as amended by AC21).

Of course, H-4 status isn’t the only status that an H-1B spouse may hold.  USCIS had previously announced that where a non-H-4 spouse applies for H-4 status, it will first change the status of the qualifying spouse to H-4 and then adjudicate the application for employment authorization. This will add another step to the process and take more time.

Please see my prior post on this topic, “H-4 EAD Applications Accepted Beginning May 26, 2015: Are you that “certain spouse”?” for more information.

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Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

 

Today USCIS announced that starting May 26, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B Extension of Stay petitions until July 27, 2015. During this time frame, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting an extension of the stay for an H-1B nonimmigrant. USCIS will continue to premium process H-1B Extension of Stay petitions filed with Form I-907 premium requests prior to May 26, 2015.

USCIS will refund the premium processing fee if:

  • A petitioner filed H-1B petitions prior to May 26, 2015, using the premium processing service, and
  • USCIS did not act on the case within the 15-calendar-day period.

This temporary suspension will allow USCIS to implement the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses final rule in a timely manner and adjudicate applications for employment authorization filed by H-4 nonimmigrants under the new regulations.

Premium processing remains available for all other Form I-129 H-1B petitions, including petitions subject to the H-1B cap that are requesting a change of nonimmigrant status or consular notification.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

Are you that “certain someone”?  That “certain spouse” of an H-1B worker who will be eligible for H-4 work authorization?  Not sure?  Here’s the scoop.

At long last, on Wednesday, February 25, 2015, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a Federal Register Notice captioned, “Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses; Final Rule”.   Per the much-awaited Notice, on May 26, 2015 (NOT earlier), USCIS will begin accepting applications from eligible applicants in H-4 status, but H-4 work authorization will not be available to all who hold H-4 status.  The chosen few, those “certain spouses” who will be eligible for H-4 work authorization include:

  • An H-4 spouse of an H-1B worker with an approved I-140, or
  • An H-4 spouse of an H-1B worker who has been granted a 7+ year extension of H-1B time pursuant to AC21 Sections 106(a) and (b).  (Note that an H-4 spouse of an H-1B worker granted a 7+ year extension under AC21 Section 104(c) would be covered under the first bullet point.)

So, not all H-4 dependent spouses will qualify to apply for an H-4 EAD (employment authorization document).  H-4 children are also ineligible.

An H-1B worker who is running out of H-1B time may want to consider whether it makes sense to change to H-4 status and seek work authorization—that is, if married to an H-1B worker who would enable the work authorization criteria to be met. Fortunately, there is a provision for concurrent filing of the H-4 application and the EAD application.

Typically, it takes about 90 days from the date of USCIS receipt of an EAD application for the EAD card to be issued.  It’s not clear whether it will take longer given that there is likely to be a very large number of filings seeking H-4 work authorization.

Careful consideration and strategizing must be undertaken to determine eligibility, the best course of action, and timing.  Please feel free to contact us if you need assistance.

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Ms. Wadhwani is a Partner in the Immigration Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

 

Today, February 24, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez announced that, as of May 26, 2015, certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status will be eligible for employment authorization. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has amended the regulations to allow these H-4 dependent spouses to accept employment in the United States.

According to Rodríguez, finalizing the H-4 employment eligibility was an important element of the immigration executive actions President Obama announced in November 2014. Extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants is one of several initiatives underway to modernize, improve and clarify visa programs to grow the U.S. economy and create jobs.

“Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense,” Rodríguez said. “It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families.”

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

  • Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • Have been granted 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 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. The Act permits H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status.

DHS reports that it expects this change will reduce the economic burdens and personal stresses H-1B nonimmigrants and their families may experience during the transition from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident status, and facilitate their integration into American society. It is anticipated that this change will reduce certain disincentives that currently lead H-1B nonimmigrants to abandon efforts to remain in the United States while seeking lawful permanent residence, which will minimize disruptions to U.S. businesses employing them and, further, also support the U.S. economy because the contributions H-1B nonimmigrants make to entrepreneurship and science help promote economic growth and job creation. The rule also will bring U.S. immigration policies more in line with those laws of other countries that compete to attract similar highly skilled workers.

Under the rule, eligible H-4 dependent spouses must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with supporting evidence and the required $380 fee in order to obtain employment authorization and receive a Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document (EAD). USCIS will begin accepting applications on May 26, 2015. Once 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 the number of individuals eligible to apply for employment authorization under this rule could be as high as 179,600 in the first year and 55,000 annually in subsequent years. USCIS reminds those potentially eligible that this rule is not considered effective until May 26, 2015. Individuals should not submit an application to USCIS before the effective date, and should avoid anyone who offers to assist in submitting an application to USCIS before the effective date.

For more information, see USCIS’ news release here.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.