Monday, March 2, 2015

USCIS Authorizes H1-B Visa Holders’ Spouses to Work

By Sangeetha Shanmugham
World Education Services

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced last week that, effective May 26, 2015, it will begin accepting applications for work authorization for 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" act.


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which houses USCIS, announced in a statement that H-4 dependent spouses will be eligible to apply for work authorization if they are married to H-1B nonimmigrants who:

- are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker), 
- 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

Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) can be filed no earlier than May 26, 2015. H-4 dependent spouses may file a "stand alone" I-765 application. They may also file their I-765 concurrently with their Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539) – and, if applicable, alongside their spouse’s Form I-129 petition.

Eligible applicants must submit all of the following with their application:

- Required $380 filing fee
- Evidence of spousal relationship to the principal H-1B
- 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.

Under the new rule, H-4 applicants will not be allowed to begin work 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 U.S. without restrictions, apply for a Social Security number, and in some states, apply for a driver's license. Any applications received by USCIS before May 26, 2015 will be rejected.

This new law may have numerous positive outcomes, such as the creation of more jobs and businesses in the U.S. More importantly, it should give those qualified spouses the chance to put their skills to use!

What are your thoughts on the announcement? Share them with us in the comments.

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