Following the executive actions by President Obama in November 2014, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in conjunction with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced new rules for certain H-4 dependent spouses. These changes are set to be effective on May 26, 2015.
An H-1B visa is an employment-based visa that allows certain workers and professionals to lawfully stay and work in the United States. Under the current rules, the dependent spouse of an H-1B visa holder is allowed to stay in the United States with an H-4 visa, but is unable to work. The new rules announced by DHS will change that in certain circumstances. According to the press release:
Eligible individuals include certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who:
- Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
- Have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. The Act permits H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status.
USCIS estimates that about 180,000 individuals will be eligible to apply this first year, with about 55,000 per year in successive years. Eligible spouses will need to file Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) with supporting evidence and the appropriate fee. Although the rule change was announced on February 24, 2015, applications will not be accepted prior to May 26, 2015.
This is a wonderful announcement because it will enable families to better support themselves. As many spouses of H-1B visa holders are also highly skilled professionals, this change will enable eligible spouses to further their careers, while their addition to the work force should also help the economy as a whole.
Although the rule change has been announced, the legal community has yet to digest all of the details and implications. We will do our best to update this blog with new information as it becomes available. Individuals that want more information about the new regulations, whether they potentially qualify, and the process as a whole, should contact us for a consultation.