Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses

If you are a spouse of an H-1B worker and you hold an H-4 status, you may now apply for employment authorization if your H-1B spouse falls under one of these two categories:

1. She or he is a principal beneficiary of an approved I-140 petition
2. She or he has been granted an H-1B status under AC21 sections 106(a) and (b)*

USCIS estimates that there will be as many as 179,600 H-4 dependent spouses who be eligible. If you are one of them, these are the things worth knowing:

1. You must be in the U.S. at the time the application for employment authorization is filed.
2. Application for employment authorization is filed on Form I-765. The application fee is $380.
3. You cannot begin working until your application for employment authorization is approved.
4. The employment authorization will likely be valid until the H-4 expiration date on your I-94.
5. You can file for an H-4 application and employment authorization at the same time, but USCIS will not adjudicate your application for employment authorization until they approve your H-4 application.
6. If you file an application to change your status to H-4 at the same time as your application for employment authorization, and you travel while the applications are pending, USCIS will deny your H-4 change of status application and your I-765 will also be denied.
7. You can file to renew your employment authorization as long as you remain eligible for the benefits.
8. There are no restrictions to the employment authorization. You can work for any employer. You can also be self-employed.
9. Your spouse’s H-1B employer need not be the same employer who filed the approved I-140 petition.
10. You cannot use the employment authorization document to enter the U.S. You still need a valid H-4 visa for entry.

* Sections 106(a) and (b) of AC21, or American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act, allows H-1B nonimmigrant who seeks employment-based lawful permanent residence to extend H-1B status beyond the six-year limit if she or he is a beneficiary of a PERM application or I-140 petition that was filed at least 365 days before the end date of the six-year limit on H-1B status.

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