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H-4 Work Authorization: A Real Possibility?

12/10/2014
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H-4 Work Authorization

Is employment authorization for H-4 nonimmigrants a reality?

Not just yet, but it is getting closer.

By definition, individuals holding an H-4 visa are dependent family members of those in H-1B status (nonimmigrant professionals with specialized knowledge). Typically, H-4 visa holders are not allowed to work while in that status.

In May 2014, the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule in the Federal Register pertaining to employment authorization for certain H-4 dependent spouses. The rule proposes to amend existing regulations to allow employment authorization for H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status in the United States.

If the rule is enacted, H-4 nonimmigrants would need to apply for employment authorization using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

The comment period on the proposed rule ceased in July 2014. Many organizations and individuals submitted comments during the open period, with over 13,000 comments received. Most comments called for an expansion of the proposed rule to allow ALL H-4 nonimmigrants, not only those with a spouse, to apply for employment authorization. Comments also suggested H-4 dependent children should be included.

In August 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) Director, Leon Rodriguez, stated that USCIS is reviewing the comments received and plans to complete the review process as quickly as possible. Thus far, no further update has been issued. However, with the midterm elections behind us, we think a change may be coming very soon.

We at GoffWilson are watching this important development closely for all our affected clients and we will keep you informed on all developments relating to H-4 work authorization as we learn anything.

Please check our bLAWg for all the latest news and updates on changes in immigration rules and regulations that may affect you and or your family members. If you have any questions, please contact us for more information.

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