H-1B Spouses Gain Work Opportunity

homeownershipLife in the United States could soon get a lot better for H-1B nonimmigrants and their families. Beginning later this spring, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extends approval to certain H-4 dependent spouses to pursue and accept employment opportunities in the country.

The employment authorization eligibility, which becomes effective on May 26, falls under the umbrella of President Obama’s executive action on immigration that he announced in November. The initiative amends DHS regulations and is part of the president’s overall effort to modernize, improve and clarify the visa programs.

H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are eligible for employment authorization include:

  • Those who are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; and
  • Those who’ve been granted H-1B status under the amended 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act that permits H-1B nonimmigrants to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit of their H-1B status.

Spouses who seek employment authorization must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization along with supporting evidence and a $380 fee.

The change in employment authorization rules is expected to reduce economic burdens and personal stresses for nonimmigrants who are H-1B visa holders and their families.  Easing the stress of transitioning from nonimmigrant status to LPR status works to facilitate the integration into American society. DHS likewise expect the extension of employment eligibility to spouses will likewise reduce the number of H-1B nonimmigrants who abandon their efforts to remain in the United States.

USCIS Director León Rodríguez said extending employment eligibility to spouses not only helps H-1B immigrants and their families, but the move is also good for the country’s economy.  “Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense,” Rodriguez says in a press release. “It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families.”

In its first year, the rule change is expected to affect nearly 180,000 people. In subsequent years, estimates say the change will affect 55,000 people annually.