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Proposed Rule Changes for Work Authorization and H4 Dependents

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in conjunction with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced proposed changes to regulations regarding the ability for certain H-4 dependents to obtain work authorization.
Under current regulations, the DHS does not list H-4 dependents of H-1B nonimmigrant workers among the visa classes eligible to work in the United States. The inability for H-4 dependents to work can be a hindrance to H-1B principals seeking permanent residence.
Proposed Rule:
The availability of employment authorization would be extended to H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B holders when the H1-B principle is:
1. In the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment and has an approved I-140; or
2. Has been granted an extension under the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000, or AC21(extension beyond the H-1B six-year limit).
This new rule would lessen the economic burden to H-1B households during the transition from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident status. It would also encourage skilled workers to remain in the United States. Due to the proposed rule’s focus on retaining skilled workers within the United States (H-1B principals), H-4 spouses of H-2A/B principals and H-3 principals are not included. Additionally, the proposed rule does not extend employment to H-4 dependent children because employment of dependent spouses should help alleviate the majority of a potential financial burden.
The proposed rule would alter the I-765 form to include H-4 dependent spouses and would require the current filing fee of $380, two passport-size photos and supporting documents.
It is estimated, with currently eligible dependents and backlogged I-140 applications, that 100,600 H-4 dependent spouses could be affected by the proposed rule. It is also estimated, post adjudication of backlogged petitions, roughly 36,000 H-4 dependent spouses could be eligible each year.
For more information regarding proposed rule changes for work authorization and H4 dependents, please contact Berardi Immigration Law today to schedule a consultation.