The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency has finally approved draft regulations that would allow some spouses of H-1B workers to get work authorization. The regulations, which were first proposed in 2011, will allow these H-4 holders to apply for work authorization if their H-1B spouses have reached a certain point in the permanent residence (green card) process. The changes are an important part of president Obama's executive Action, discussed in this earlier blog post.
If the H-1B worker has either:
(a) an approved I-140 (petition for immigrant worker) or
(b) an extension of H-1B status past the initial 6-year limit
the H-4 spouse can apply for work authorization using Form I-765. They can start working when they receive their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that will be valid for the remainder of the H-4 status - up to three years.
USCIS will begin accepting EAD applications from H-4 spouses on May 26, 2015. The application is made on Form I-765. It can be filed alone, or with an application to change status (e.g. from L-2), or with some applications to extend H-4 status.
Advance copy of regulations
DHS Press Release.
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.