On May 12, 2014, USCIS published a proposed rule in the federal register that that will extend employment authorization to some – but not all – spouses of H-1B visa holders. The proposed rule provides an extension that “would be limited to H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants who are in the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment.”
The proposed rule extends work authorization to H-4 dependent spouses when the principal H-1B is the beneficiary of:
- An approved I-140 petition; or
- An extension of an H-1B visa under AC21. (AC21 allows H-1B to remain in the US beyond the six year limit if certain conditions are met regarding the employment-based permanent residency process)
Since the rule is still in the proposal phase, comments are being accepted from May 12, 2014 until July 11, 2014. Becker and Lee, LLP submitted the following comment in the federal register, urging the rule to be expanded to all H-4 spouses:
“The proposed rule should be expanded to include all H-4 spouses, not just those whose H-1B spouses have an approved I-140 and/or H-1B extension under AC21 approved. Limiting the rule to only certain H-4 spouses restricts competitiveness and deters employees from coming to the US to offer essential professional services. The proposed rule should be expanded to include all H-4 spouses regardless of whether the H-1B spouse’s employer has began the permanent residency process.”
On May 6, 2014 DHS announced it would also propose a regulation that would extend additional benefits to professionals from Chile and Singapore (H-1B1 visas) and from Australia (E-3 visas).