USCIS Announces New Work Card Eligibility for H4 Spouses

Submitted by Firm:
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
Firm Contacts:
Jennifer L. Anderson, Kathlyn Perez, Phyllis G. Cancienne, Robert C. Divine
Article Type:
Legal Update

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced yesterday that, effective May 26, 2015, USCIS will begin accepting applications for work authorization of H-4 spouses of two groups of H-1B nonimmigrant workers: those who have an approved I-140 immigrant petition, and those approved for H-1B status beyond the normal six-year maximum under the "AC21" law.

Eligibility: The DHS announcement states that H-4 dependent spouses will be eligible to apply for work authorization if they meet the following criteria. Applicants must be spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who:

  • Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Petition for Immigrant Worker, or
  • Are in extended H-1B status under section 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21).

Application Process: I-765 Applications for Work Authorization can be filed no earlier than May 26, 2015. DHS will permit H-4 dependent spouses either to file a "stand alone" Form I-765 application for employment authorization or to file their Form I-765 application concurrently with their Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539), and if applicable their spouses' Form I-129 petition. Eligible applicants must submit the following with their application:

  • Required $380 filing fee;
  • Evidence of the spousal relationship to the principal H-1B; and
  • Copy of approved I-140 for principal H-1B spouse, or evidence that principal H-1B spouse has been granted H-1B extension beyond six years under the AC21 Act.

H-4 applicants under this new rule will not be allowed to commence employment until the application for employment authorization is approved. Once the application is approved, the H-4 dependent spouse will be eligible to work in the United States without restrictions, will be able to apply for a Social Security number, and in some states, apply for a driver's license.