H-4 visa holders to get automatic work authorization permits

The US will now provide automatic work authorization permits to the spouses of H-1B visa holders. The immigration-friendly move of the Biden administration is likely to benefit thousands of Indian-American women. 

An H-4 visa, a non-immigrant visa, is issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders. The visa is normally issued to those who have already started the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status in the US. 

A class-action lawsuit was filed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) on behalf of immigrant spouses earlier this year, following which the Department of Homeland Security facilitated the decision to issue automatic work authorization permits. 

Jon Wasden from AILA said: “This (H-4 visa holders) is a group that always met the regulatory test for the automatic extension of EADs (employment authorization documents), but the agency previously prohibited them from that benefit and forced them to wait for reauthorization. People were suffering. They were losing their high-paying jobs for absolutely no legitimate reason, causing harm to them and US businesses.” 

Earlier, the USCIS policy prohibited H-4 spouses from taking from the automatic extension of their employment authorization during the pendency of standalone EAD applications. 

“Although this is a giant achievement, the parties’ agreement will further result in a massive change in position for the USCIS, which now recognizes that L-2 spouses enjoy automatic work authorization incident to status, meaning these spouses of executives and managers will no longer have to apply for employment authorization prior to working in the United States,” AILA stated. 

“We are delighted to have reached this agreement, which includes relief for H-4 spouses, through our litigation efforts with Wasden Banias and Steven Brown. It is gratifying that the administration saw that settling the litigation for non-immigrant spouses was something that should be done, and done quickly,” said Jesse Bless, AILA director of federal litigation. 

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