USCIS Updates Policy on Employment Authorization for Certain H-4, E, and L NonImmigrant Spouses

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By: Lihua Tan

Effective November 12, 2021, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will automatically extend employment authorization for certain H-4, E, and L nonimmigrant dependent spouses. The policy will help to reduce processing delays faced by nonimmigrants in these categories.

major policy changes

Based on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  settlement agreement[1], USCIS issued updated policy to include automatic extensions for H-4 nonimmigrant spouses. Certain H-4, E, and L dependent spouses will qualify for automatic extension of their employment authorization document (EAD) if they:

  • Properly file their application to renew their EAD before it expires, and
  • Have an unexpired Form I-94 which shows their status as an H-4, E, or L nonimmigrant.

EADs can be automatically extended until the earlier date of:

  • The last date that Form I-94 shows valid status,
  • The EAD renewal application is approved or denied, or
  • Within 180 days after the previous EAD expires.

The following documents are required for automatic EAD extension and can also be used for employment eligibility verification:

  • Form I-94: A valid Form I-94 with a clear unexpired nonimmigrant status.
  • Form I-797C: Timely filed EAD renewal application with the “class requested” section correctly filled out as “(a)(17),” “(a)(18),” or “(c)(26).”
  • EAD: The facially expired EAD issued under the same category, A17, A18, or C26.

USCIS will also view E and L dependent spouses on valid status as automatically authorized for employment in the United States without an additional application (Form I-765). 

The Department of Homeland Security will modify Form I-94 to properly differentiate between E and L dependent spouses and children. Once E and L spouses in valid status receive the new Form I-94s, they will become authorized for employment in the United States without an additional application (Form I-765).

E and L spouses may choose to request an EAD using Form I-765. If they do not have a modified Form I-94 that specifically states “spousal” L-2 or E visa status, they will continue to need an EAD to remain authorized to work. When released, the new modified Form I-94 can be used by employers as a List C document to verify employment eligibility on Form I-9 for qualifying E and L dependent spouses.

conclusion

USCIS policy will now offer automatic extension of employment authorization for certain H-4, E, and L nonimmigrant dependent spouses. For help making sure you are authorized to work, or for specific questions regarding the new policy, contact your Chugh LLP, immigration professional.

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