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H-4 Employment Authorization Guideline

A question and answer guideline concerning the employment authorization for certain H-4 dependent spouses was recently released by the USCIS. It provides information on eligibility, the application process, adjudication and processing times.

The H-4 employment authorization rule took effect on May 20, 2015. Many have already applied for the benefit but further clarification of the process was needed.

Under the rule, eligible are the spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are the beneficiaries of an approved I-140 immigrant petition or who have been granted extension beyond six years under the AC21 law.

The I-140 need not have been filed by the current H-1B employer or by the employer who had filed the H-1B petition.

The I-140 must not have been revoked. Both the spouse and the dependent must be maintaining their nonimmigrant status.

The authorization is unrestricted. This means that you as a dependent spouse may work anywhere or engage in self-employment or start a business.

If you file you must submit a paper I-765 application, not an electronic form, and submit supporting documents. Supporting documents include evidence of H-4 nonimmigrant status, evidence of your relationship with your H-1B spouse such as your marriage certificate and documents proving his/her H-1B status. This could be a copy of Form I-797, Notice of Approval for the Form I-129 filed on your spouse’s behalf. This could also be a copy of your H-1B spouse’s Form I-94, personal data page in his/her passport, visas on which he or she last entered the US and the latest US admission stamped in his/her passport.

If your spouse’s H-1B status is based on the AC21 law, you must include evidence that your H-1B spouse is the beneficiary of a Permanent Labor Certification Application filed at least 365 days before the expiration of his/her six-year stay. This could be a copy of a printout from the Department of Labor (DOL) showing the status of the Permanent Labor Certification Application filed on his/her behalf.

You may also submit proof that your H-1B spouse’s Form I-140 was filed at least 365 days before the expiration of his/her six-year stay as an H-1B. An example would be to include a copy of your H-1B spouse’s Form-I-797 Receipt Notice for the Form I-140.

If you are applying based on your spouse being a beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, submit a copy of the approval notice of his Form I-140 or if unavailable, anything that could explain why it is unavailable.

If you are unable to obtain the abovementioned documentation for whatever reason, sworn affidavits by non-parties who have direct knowledge of the relevant events and circumstances may likewise be submitted as substitute evidence.

While the I-765 is pending, you may travel if you are currently in status and meet all other admission requirements. If the I-765 is filed concurrently with your I-539 change of status to H-4, travel will be treated as abandonment of application.

Processing time is about 90 days. The employment authorization card cannot be used to enter and exit the US.

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