May 29, 2015
On May 26, 2015, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting applications for employment authorization from certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants. Eligible individuals include H-4 dependent spouses whose spouse in H-1B status is: 1) the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 immigrant petition for alien worker; or 2) has been granted H-1B status under AC21, which allows certain H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the US beyond the normal six year limit on H-1B status.

H-4 spouses seeking work authorization will file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS. Applicants will include documentation of current H-4 admission or extension of stay and provide documentation establishing either that the H-1B principal has an approved immigrant visa petition (I-140) or that the current H-4 admission or extension of stay was based on AC21. Applicants will also need to submit a copy of their marriage certificate and may want to provide proof of an ongoing bona fide marital relationship with the principal. Finally, applicants are required to submit two color passport photographs. The filing fee for the I-765 application is $465, and applications are to be sent to a USCIS lockbox facility depending on the residence of the applicant.

Although applications became available for filing on May 26, processing will stretch into the summer. USCIS generally takes 60-90 days to process applications for employment authorization. Also, based on the likely heavy volume of applications, processing delays may occur. Some reports estimate that there are up to 180,000 H-4 spouses who will be eligible to file for work authorization.

Noting the need to shift resources to process the initial high volume of H-4 employment authorization applications, USCIS announced that it is temporarily suspending premium processing for all H-1B Extension of Stay petitions effective May 26, 2015 and lasting through July 27, 2015. USCIS will continue to premium process H-1B Extension of Stay petitions for requests filed prior to May 26, 2015. USCIS further stated that H-1B petitions subject to the H-1B cap that are requesting a change of status or consular notification will continue to be processed without incident.