The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B workers will be able to apply for employment authorization starting May 26, 2015.  The USCIS is expected to release details on the filing process.

This new work authorization does not apply to all H-4 spouses. An H-4 spouse will be eligible to apply for employment authorization if their H-1B spouse:

  • Is the beneficiary of an approved I-140; or
  • Has been granted an extension of H-1B status beyond the six-year limit based on the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000. Specifically, these are individuals granted an extension of H-1B status based upon PERM Labor Certification application or an I-140 immigrant petition taking more than 365 days.

The State Department has indicated that over 96,000 people obtained H-4 visas in 2013. This will have a significant impact for the South Asian community as 76% of those visas were issues to people from those countries. In addition, this will have the largest impact on spouses of technology workers who use the vast majority of H-1B visas.

The USCIS indicates that this action will help reduce the financial stress of H-1B holders and their families due to the inability of spouses to get work authorization. The filing is done through an I-765 filing which provides for a general work authorization document. Unlike the H-1B holder, the spouse will have more flexibility in the kind of work they choose to pursue.

We will provide updates on how to initiate a new H-4 work authorization as the information becomes available.