Spouses of H-1B Holders Now Eligible to Work in the U.S.
April 8, 2015

Starting May 26, 2015, the spouses of many H1-B visa holders will be eligible for employment authorization documents (EADs). Currently, the dependents of non-immigrant workers under the H1-B program are welcome to live in the United States and are granted a special dependent visa, known as an H4 visa. However, an H4 visa holder cannot engage in any work for compensation while they reside in the United States. This restriction puts a lot of H1-B workers and their employers in a tough spot. It forces many to put careers on hold while they live in the United States, it can cause financial hardship on the affected families, and it places an unnecessary obstacle in the labor market preventing businesses from attracting the best available talent. The new rule is a common sense, business-friendly development that is a huge step in the right direction.

It is important to note that there are limits to the new rules. Not all H4 dependents will be eligible to apply for EADs. The H4 visa holder must (1) be the spouse of an eligible H1-B worker; and (2) the H1-B worker must be the beneficiary of an approved I-140, or (3) have extended H1-B status beyond six years based on the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21). The EAD would provide unrestricted employment authorization, which the holder could use to work full time or part time for any employer in any field or position. However, children who hold H4 status, even those who are old enough to work, are not eligible to apply for an EAD under the new rule.

This rule change is an important element of President Obama’s executive action on immigration taken last November. Most people are aware that the immigration executive action may eventually allow as many as 5 million people currently in the country without authorization the chance to obtain temporary work permits. However, the November announcement also covered several issues of concern to U.S. business. Over the next several weeks we will be sharing our examination of the facets of the President’s action that impact business.

For more information on processing times, determining eligibility, and the application process, please contact your Davis & Kuelthau attorney.


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