REMINDER: Do NOT submit an application for employment authorization (Form I-765) before May 26, 2015. USCIS will not accept a Form I-765 requesting employment authorization based on your H-4 status until the H-4 rule takes effect on May 26, 2015. If you submit a Form I-765 requesting employment authorization on this basis before May 26, 2015, USCIS will reject and return your application with the filing fee. You would then need to re-submit the application on or after May 26, 2015.
Beginning May 26, 2015, certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants can file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, as long as the H-1B nonimmigrant has already started the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. Specifically, H-4 dependent spouses may apply for employment authorization if the H-1B nonimmigrant:
- Is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
- Has 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 (AC21). AC21 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.
The Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses final rule (H-4 rule), effective on May 26, 2015, seeks to support the goals of attracting and retaining highly skilled foreign workers and minimizing the disruption to U.S. businesses resulting from H-1B nonimmigrants who choose not to remain in the United States and pursue LPR status.
Although USCIS published the H-4 notice of proposed rulemaking in May 2014, finalizing it was part of the executive actions on immigration that President Obama announced in November 2014. Extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants is one of the initiatives to modernize, improve and clarify visa programs to grow the U.S. economy and create jobs.
U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require a bachelor’s or higher degree in a specific specialty that is directly related to the H-1B position. In addition to specialty occupation workers, the H-1B classification applies to individuals performing services related to a Department of Defense cooperative research and development project or coproduction project, and to individuals performing services of distinguished merit and ability in the field of fashion modeling.