USCIS Updates Employment Eligibility Rules for H-4, E, and L Spouses

On November 12, 2021 USCIS issued a comprehensive Policy Memorandum which provides immediate relief for the H-4, E, and L Dependent Spouses who seek to engage in employment in the U.S.

Certain H-4 spouses* who have been granted employment authorization and are seeking to extend their permission to work, are now eligible for an automatic extension of their work permission.  Provided they have filed a timely application for extension of their Employment Authorization Documents (EAD), their permission to work is now automatically extended for up to 180 days, until their extension application is adjudicated (granted or denied), or until the expiration of their Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record-whichever comes first.

The documents required to demonstrate to employers that they are work authorized are: their unexpired Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record, the Form I-797 receipt confirming a timely filed I-765 extension application, and the expired EAD.

E and L Dependent spouses are now considered authorized to work “incident to status” and are no longer required to apply for or present an Employment Authorization Document.  Since this benefit does not extend to dependent children of the E or L principal, USCIS will work with CBP in the coming months to modify the Form I-94 to distinguish between dependent spouses and dependent children.  This will then serve as a “List C” document for I-9 purposes. Until then, an EAD will be required.  E and L Dependent spouses may now apply for an EAD but will incur the filing fee of $410-and expect to wait months before it is issued.

*not all H-4 spouses are eligible for employment authorization