H4 visa holding spouses of H-1B skilled foreign workers may soon be able to work in the U.S. with an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) under new criteria proposed by Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced on May 6, 2014. DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated in the announcement, that the proposed changes would, “provide important support to U.S. businesses while also supporting economic growth here in the U.S. These steps will help the U.S. maintain competitiveness with other countries in our efforts to attract the best and the brightest high-skilled workers from around the world to support companies here at home.”
The H-1B visa program helps attract the world’s best and brightest workers to the U.S. Talented foreign entrepreneurs and high-skilled immigrant workers are now more likely to consider U.S. job opportunities if their spouses no longer have to forego their careers. Many highly skilled H-1B workers also have career focused spouses and the H4 dependent spouse visa program helps bring families to the U.S. To learn more about how H-1B visas and the EADs work, please read our blog article, Annual H-1B Fiscal Year Cap Season: Many who play this “lottery” will not win.
This is a significant development in immigration because H4 visa holders had previously not been allowed to maintain employment beyond a temporary and sometimes restricted basis. Meanwhile, the family of L1 workers (L2 is the equivalent visa to an H4) have been able to work with less restrictions, generally. L1 visas are commonly used in internationally operating companies and there are several differences from the H-1B employment-based visa. Immigration attorneys help applicants with the distinctions and and applications.
The H4 EAD proposal would enhance the opportunities for skilled workers specifically as follows and reported in the DHS press release:
- Update the regulations to include nonimmigrant high-skilled specialty occupation professionals from Chile and Singapore (H-1B1) and from Australia (E-3) in the list of classes of aliens authorized for employment incident to status with a specific employer,
- Clarify that H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants are allowed to work without having to separately apply to DHS for employment authorization.
- Allow E-3, H-1B1 and CW-1 nonimmigrant workers up to 240 days of continued work authorization beyond the expiration date noted on their Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, while the extension request is pending
Response in the immigrant community has been favorable and can improve the lives of spouses and family members who were happily at work at home before their family member came to the U.S. on an H-1B visa or their status changed from an L1. For example, Mary James, “was working for an insurance outfit in India from 2005-2007. She and her husband immigrated to the US when he came for work, employed by a division of Microsoft – him on L1, her on L2. However, her husband’s division was acquired by another company, forcing his visa designation to change from L1 to H-1B, and causing James to become an H4 visa, dependent on her husband. For James, who had spent her first couple of months in the US working in Connecticut, the transition from a full-time work week to unemployment was jarring.”
Chicago-based immigration attorney, KiKi M. Mosley, closely follows developments in immigration law and policy, including updates to visa rules and policies. When the proposal becomes the rule, as it is anticipated, attorney Mosley will be able to offer advice and assistance with the application and immigration status change procedures.
Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues including PIP and adjustments of immigration status. For more information about the law firm, please visit www.KiKisLaw.com, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter. You can also review Attorney Mosley’s endorsements on her Avvo profile.