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DHS Extending Eligibility for Employment Authorization to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants

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Change to reduce economic burdens, personal stresses experienced by many

USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez announced today that effective May 26, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security is extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent residence. DHS has amended the regulations to allow these H-4 dependent spouses to accept employment in the United States.
So what does this all mean? Our Managing Partner, Rosanna Berardi, puts it all in perspective in this Q&A:
Q: So if I hold H-4 status I can now work?
Rosanna: Maybe. Not all H-4 beneficiaries are impacted by the change. In order to qualify, you have to meet the following criteria:
• Your H-1B spouse has to have an approved I-140; OR
• Have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act – usually referred to as AC-21. This act permits H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1b status, when immigrant visa numbers aren’t available.
Q: I have confirmed that I qualify – what do I have to do?
Rosanna: Under the rule, eligible H-4 dependent spouses must file Form I-765, Authorization for Employment Authorization, with supporting evidence and the required $380 fee in order to obtain employment authorization.
Q: When can I apply and begin to work? 
Rosanna: USCIS will begin accepting applications on May 26, 2015. It is important to note that applications will absolutely not be accepted before this date. Once USCIS has approved the Form I-765 and you, the H-4 dependent spouse, receives an Employment Authorization card, you can then begin working in the United States.
Q: How many people may be eligible?
Rosanna: USCIS estimates that the number of individuals eligible to apply for employment authorization under this rule could be as high as 179,600 in the first year and 55,000 annually in subsequent years.
Q: What effect will this change have overall? Is this really such a big deal for people?
Rosanna: This is long-awaited good news for many immigrant families in the U.S.   Right now, waiting times to finalize the green card process for foreign nationals impacted by this change can run many years. Under current regulation, only the H-1B worker can be employed. This means that the financial burden for the entire family falls on just one person.
DHS expects this change to reduce the economic burdens and personal stresses that H-1B nonimmigrants and their families experience during the transition from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident status. As such, the change should reduce certain disincentives that currently lead H-1b nonimmigrants to abandon efforts to remain in the United States while seeking lawful permanent residence, which will minimize disruptions to the U.S. businesses employing them. The change should also support the U.S. economy because the contributions H-1B nonimmigrants make to entrepreneurship and science help promote economic job creation. The rule will also bring U.S. immigration policies more in line with those laws of other countries that compete to attract similar highly skilled workers.
Q: Should I hire Berardi Immigration Law to assist in this process?
Rosanna: Absolutely. Because these regulations are brand new and the application can be complex, it is highly recommended that you receive the help of an immigration attorney when pursuing Employment Authorization. Berardi Immigration Law files hundreds of Employment Authorization Applications on behalf of our clients and our attorneys have a thorough understanding of the process. If you believe you may qualify for Employment Authorization under these new regulations, please contact our office today!