Litigation brings employment processing improvements for L2, E and H4 spouses in the US12 November 2021
There has been a hugely positive development for dependents of international employees in the US with the news that E-1, E-2, E-3 and L-2 dependent spouses are to receive automatic work authorization incident to status.
In addition, from 12 November, the employment authorization document (EAD) of an E and L dependent spouse, and employment authorization and EAD of an H-4 dependent spouse, will be automatically extended for a period of up to 180 days, where certain conditions are met.
The changes, prompted by litigation filed by AILA, Wasden Banias and Steven Brown, chime with recommendations made to US policy makers in Permits Foundation’s March position paper and recent article on the need for an EAD. The improvements for L-2 and these E visa holders will bring the US more closely into line with the good practice implemented in over 30 other competitive countries worldwide, where direct work access is granted as soon as the partner is recognised as a family member. Permits Foundation will continue to advocate in the US for improved processing as well as work access incident to status for other dependents, as per our position paper.
The USCIS on 12 November posted confirmation of the changes but there are considerations to take into account. For example, only some H-4s spouses will be covered, L and E spouses will still require an EAD to work until they are issued with a new code to evidence they have direct work access. More detail is available in this explanation from Fragomen.
Further litigation covering other spouse categories is in the pipeline. It is hoped that future policy improvements can bring relief to spouses who under USCIS rules, have not been able to file an extension of their employment authorization document (EAD) until 6 months before expiry. With EAD processing taking much longer, many families are facing stress and uncertainty, some dependents have been pushed out of work.
For further information please see:
- The updated page of the USCIS Policy Manual
- This press release from the American Immigration Law Association
- The text of the settlement agreement