USCIS on May 21, 2015, published information to help eligible H-4 dependent spouses who want to apply for employment authorization under the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses final rule.
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:
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 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.
In response to the stakeholder teleconference, USCIS posted the following Frequently Asked Questions that can help in clarifying queries of many eligible applicants.
Frequently Asked Questions
Determining If You May Apply for Employment Authorization
Your employment authorization expiration date generally will match your H-4 nonimmigrant status expiration date. USCIS may grant employment authorization for the maximum time allowed even if the AC21 §§ 106(a) and (b) portion of your H-1B spouse’s extension is only for part of the full validity period. Under this scenario, your H-1B spouse’s extension has been granted under AC21 §§ 106(a) and (b), so you would be eligible for employment authorization for as long as your H-4 status is valid.
No, this is not a one-time opportunity. If you are a H-4 nonimmigrant who obtains employment authorization under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(26), you may file to renew your employment authorization and receive a new EAD as long as you remain eligible for employment authorization as described in 8 CFR 214.2(h)(9)(iv).
Yes, you must be in the United States to apply for employment authorization. You must be in H-4 status to be eligible for employment authorization, and an individual outside of the United States cannot be in H-4 status.
In order to qualify for employment authorization as an H-4 nonimmigrant, your H-1B spouse must have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of AC21 or be the beneficiary of an approved Form I-140. If USCIS revokes the Form I-140 petition, your H-1B spouse is no longer the beneficiary of an approved Form I-140. Therefore, you would not qualify for employment authorization based on that eligibility criterion. You may still qualify for employment authorization if your H-1B spouse has received an extension of stay under sections 106(a) or (b) of AC21.
For you to qualify for employment authorization based on your H-4 status, your H-1B spouse must have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of AC21 or be the beneficiary of an approved Form I-140. USCIS does not require that the approved Form I-140 be filed by your spouse’s current employer or by the same employer who filed your H-1B spouse’s Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
We have the discretion to revoke your employment authorization if your H-1B spouse no longer has an approved Form I-140 or is no longer eligible for H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of AC21. Both you and your H-1B spouse must be maintaining your nonimmigrant status for you to be eligible for employment authorization under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(26).
Yes. If you are granted employment authorization based on your H-4 status, your employment authorization is unrestricted. This means that your employment authorization is not limited to a specific employer. It also does not prohibit self-employment or starting a business.
As noted above, employment authorization based on H-4 status under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(26) is unrestricted. Such employment authorization does not prohibit self-employment, including situations where the H-4 nonimmigrant hires individuals as employees of their business.
Applying for Employment Authorization
Yes. You may file your Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization together with your Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status and the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker filed on behalf of your H-1B spouse. For extensions of nonimmigrant status, the Form I-129 for your H-1B spouse can be filed no more than six months before the date that the employer needs your spouse to work.
Yes, but this scenario is possible only if your H-1B spouse has an approved Form I-140 or is requesting an extension of stay under sections 106(a) and (b) of AC21. Your spouse’s employer can file Form I-129 for your H-1B spouse no more than six months before the date the employer needs your spouse to work.
Please note that under this scenario, we cannot adjudicate your Form I-765 until we make a determination about both your H-1B spouse’s eligibility for H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of AC21 and your eligibility for H-4 nonimmigrant status.
In either of the above scenarios, USCIS will not begin the 90-day interim EAD clock until we make a decision on your spouse’s H-1B status and your H-4 status.
If you are applying for employment authorization based on your H-4 nonimmigrant status, you must file a paper Form I-765 application. We will not accept electronic Form I-765 applications.
When applying for employment authorization based on your H-4 nonimmigrant status, submit the following with your application to demonstrate eligibility:
If you cannot submit the evidence listed on the Basis for Work Authorization section, you must demonstrate your inability to submit such evidence and instead submit secondary evidence, such as an attestation that lists information about the underlying Form I-129 or Form I-140 petition.
Such attestation can include the receipt number of the most current Form I-129 extension of stay filed on your H-1B spouse’s behalf or the receipt number of the approved Form I-140 petition filed on your H-1B spouse’s behalf, and the petitioner’s/beneficiary’s names in the underlying Form I-129 or I-140. If you cannot obtain such secondary evidence, explain your inability to do so and submit two or more sworn affidavits by non-parties who have direct knowledge of the relevant events and circumstances.
As noted in the instructions for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, you may submit a legible photocopy of an original document with your application, unless we later specifically request the original document in a request for evidence. If you submit original documents when not required, those documents may remain a part of the record and will not be automatically returned.
No. Premium processing is not available for Form I-765 applications filed by H-4 dependent spouses under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(26).
If you have filed a Form I-539 and it is still pending on May 26, 2015, we encourage you to wait until your Form I-539 has been adjudicated before filing a Form I-765. This will prevent delays in the adjudication of your Form I-765. Additionally, because we anticipate a high volume of filings, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to match your Form I-765 with your Form I-539.
How We Will Adjudicate Your Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765)
No. There is no cap on Forms I-765 filed based on H-4 dependent spouse eligibility under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(26).
No. We do not anticipate any changes in the way officers adjudicate Form I-140 immigrant petitions.
As an F-1 nonimmigrant who has employment authorization under OPT, you are allowed to work only as long as the OPT authorization remains valid. Filing an application to change status from F-1 to H-4 nonimmigrant status and/or an application for employment authorization based on H-4 status does not extend your employment authorization under OPT or any previously granted employment authorization. If you file a Form I-539 requesting to change your nonimmigrant status to H-4 and you include a Form I-765, we will adjudicate your Form I-765 only after we adjudicate your Form I-539 and grant you H-4 status.
No. We will not backdate the validity date of your EAD to the time your H-4 status was granted. Your EAD will be valid beginning on the date that USCIS adjudicates your Form I-765 or the date you acquire qualifying H-4 status, whichever is later. Additionally, your EAD will expire when your H-4 nonimmigrant status expires.
While Waiting for USCIS to Adjudicate Your Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765)
You may travel if you are in valid H-4 status and meet all the admission requirements, including having a valid H-4 nonimmigrant visa. However, traveling outside of the United States could cause delays in your case. While you are outside of the United States, we may need additional information to make a decision on your Form I-765 or we may issue a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) with an opportunity to respond. If you do not respond on time to a Request for Evidence (RFE) or to the NOID, we may deny your case as abandoned. Additionally, travel outside of the United States may also cause possible delays if we need to reschedule your appointment at an Application Support Center.
Finally, please note that if you file Form I-765 concurrently with Form I-539 requesting a change to H-4 status from a different nonimmigrant classification, we will deny your Form I-539 as abandoned if you travel abroad while your Form I-539 is pending. In this case, we would also deny your Form I-765.
The timeline will vary from case-to-case. Currently, the processing time for Form I-765 is 90 days (3 months). Please note that if you file a Form I-765 based on your H-4 nonimmigrant status under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(26) concurrently with a Form I-129 and Form I-539, the processing timeline will not begin until we have made a decision on your spouse’s eligibility for H-1B status and/or your eligibility for H-4 status. Processing may also be delayed if the evidence included with these benefit requests does not establish eligibility and we need to issue an RFE or NOID.
Once You Receive Employment Authorization
No. An EAD issued to an H-4 dependent spouse under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(26) is not an entry document. If you have H-4 nonimmigrant status and depart the United States, you must use your valid passport and H-4 nonimmigrant visa (unless you are visa exempt) or other travel document to return to the United States.