New Rule Allows Work Permits for Many Spouses in H-4 Visa Status
Beginning on May 26, 2015, new rule changes will allow many in H-4 visa status to file for a work permit. H-4 visa holders are the spouses and children of employees in the U.S. on an H-1B visa (a temporary visa for professional and high skilled workers). H-4 status does not bestow work authorization, which has resulted in personal and economic hardship for many foreign nationals who are often as highly skilled and educated as their H-1B spouses.
USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) has changed its regulations, however, to allow work permits for certain H-4 spouses, where the H-1B spouse has met particular milestones in the greencard process. This change is significant because the work-based greencard process involves a lengthy wait, even spanning over 10 years in some categories.
Who can apply for the new H-4 work permit?
A spouse of an H-1B non-immigrant in H-4 status (or who is filing for a change to H-4 status) can file for the work permit starting May 26, 2015 if they can prove:
That their H-1B spouse has an approved I-140 visa petition or;
That their H-1B spouse been granted an H-1B extension beyond the 6th year H-1B maximum, based upon either an approved I-140 petition or via a PERM (Labor Certification) / I-140 petition filed by the 5th year in H-1B status.
USCIS states the applications will be processed in 90 days, but those who file the work permit with a change or extension of status at the same time should expect a longer wait. This is because the 90 day work permit processing time is counted from the approval of the change or extension of status. Meaning, the work permit might not begin processing until the end of the 90 days.