USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on Employment Authorization for Certain H-4, E, and L Nonimmigrant Dependent Spouses

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On November 12, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issued policy guidance to automatically extend employment authorization (“EAD”) for H-4, E, and L nonimmigrant dependent spouses under certain circumstances. Effective immediately, H-4, E, and L dependent spouses now qualify for automatic extension of their existing EAD if they properly filed an application to renew their H-4, E, or L-based EAD before it expires and they have an unexpired Form I-94 showing their status as an H-4, E, or L nonimmigrant. The EAD will automatically be extended to the earlier of the following: The Form I-94 expiration date, the approval or denial of the EAD renewal application, or 180 days from the date of the expiration of the previous EAD. This policy provision is aimed to mitigate gaps in employment authorization due to USCIS backlogs and delays in application adjudication. USCIS has 120 days in which to update the I-94 to reflect the automatic authorization. Until then, H-4, E, and L dependents with work authorization must rely on their current EADs to prove their eligibility to work.

Effective immediately, E and L dependent spouses are employment authorized incident to their status and therefore they are no longer required to request employment authorization by filing Form I-765 upon entering the U.S. in valid status. USCIS will modify the Form I-94 for E and L dependent spouses to notate immediate documentation of their employment authorization upon admission in valid E or L status. H-4 dependents must still file an I-765 upon admission to the U.S.

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