On November 11, 2021 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and its litigation partners Wasden Banias and Steven Brown, announce the historic settlement with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Shergill, et al. v. Mayorkas, which provides structural changes for nonimmigrant H-4 and L-2 spouses suffering from long delayed processing times for the processing of applications for employment authorization. The litigation successfully achieved the reversal of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy that prohibited H-4 spouses from benefiting from automatic extension of their employment authorization during the pendency of standalone employment authorization document (EAD) applications. Although this is a giant achievement, the parties’ agreement will further result in a massive change in position for USCIS, which now recognizes that L-2 spouses enjoy automatic work authorization incident to status, meaning these spouses of executive and managers will no longer have to apply for employment authorization prior to working in the United States.
In short, these structural changes for H-4 and L-2 spouses suffering from long delayed processing times for the processing of applications for employment authorization are as follows:
For H-4s: Within 120 days of the Effective Date, USCIS will amend the receipt notice currently issued to applicants to detail the EAD auto-extension eligibility for those holding H-4 status based on the validity period provided on a Form I-94 in combination with a facially expired EAD and the Form I-797C receipt notice for a timely-filed I-765 EAD renewal application.
For L-2s: USCIS will issue policy guidance that states that L-2 spouses are employment authorized incident to status and, in cooperation with CBP, change the Form I-94, within 120 days of the Effective Date, to indicate that the bearer is an L-2 spouse so that it can be used as a List C document for Form I-9 purposes.
In connection with this, today, November 12, 2021, USCIS issued updated policy guidance to address automatic extension of employment authorization for certain H-4, E, and L nonimmigrant dependent spouses. USCIS is updating its interpretation and implementation of 8 CFR 274a.13(d) to provide that certain H-4, E, or L dependent spouses will qualify for the automatic extension provided under this regulatory provision if certain conditions are met. Guidance is effective 11/12/21 and comments are due by 12/13/21.
Simultaneously, USCIS is rescinding the 2002 Legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service memorandum entitled, “Guidance on Employment Authorization for E and L Nonimmigrant Spouses, and for Determinations on the Requisite Employment Abroad for L Blanket Petition” (2002 INS memorandum).
This policy guidance, contained in Volume 10 of the Policy Manual, is effective immediately and provides:
It is anticipated that USCIS will issue additional guidance as further steps to implement the terms of the settlement are undertaken, however, it clear that USCIS intends for H-4 dependents who are in the process of their H-4 EAD documents and meet the criteria above are eligible to immediately benefit from the automatic extension provision. We will continue to update you as information becomes available.