H-1B seasons is almost here, and there's good news for the spouses and children of workers who receive an H-1B visa. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services recently published a final rule that will allow certain spouses of H-1B workers to apply for employment authorization starting in May.
Events leading to this reform
As of right now, foreign nationals who receive an H-1B visa can bring their spouses and children under 21 to the U.S. using H-4 visas. While these family members are legally allowed to live in the U.S., spouses cannot apply for permission to work in the U.S. under these visas, which has had crucial and often damaging implications for these families.
"Families often must survive on only one salary."
Without the ability for both adults to work many couples face economic hardship. Families often must survive on only one salary, which can affect their desire to stay and work in the U.S. in the future. The issue came to prominence when an online petition began circulating online a few years ago, with H-4 visa holders and Americans asking the government to extend work eligibility to H-4 spouses.
Understanding the financial difficulties associated with being unable to work and wanting to encourage skilled workers to come to the U.S., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the potential to allow H-4 visa holders to gain eligibility in 2012. The final rule to allow eligible H-4 spouses to apply for employment authorization was issued this February.
"Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense," said USCIS Director León Rodríguez, according to a USCIS 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."
Who qualifies under the new rule?
Not every H-4 spouse will be able to apply for employment authorization, but the new procedure will benefit many. To qualify for work authorization as an H-4 spouse, he or she must be married to an H-1B worker who is a) the principal beneficiary of an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, or b) has been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act, which allows him or her to work in the U.S. beyond six years.
What this means for immigration professionals
The news isn't just important to current and future H-1B visa holders, but also to immigration attorneys and human resources managers who help foreign nationals navigate the process of acquiring H-1B visas.
Many clients of immigration professionals will have spouses who also want to work in the U.S. while they live there, which means attorneys and HR managers can expect their clients to come to them for guidance. In addition to taking on these additional clients, immigration professionals face a new process that will require a new workflow.
INSZoom is the tool attorneys and HR managers need to handle this change efficiently. INSZoom stays up to date on new application processes, providing professionals with the necessary documents and automated templates they need. Professionals can also create custom workflows to fit their specific internal process for H-1B visa applications with spouses who will seek employment authorization.
USCIS will begin accepting employment applications from eligible H-4 spouses May 26, through Form 1-765, Application for Employment Authorization with the necessary documentation and fee.