USCIS announced today that a new regulation permitting certain spouses of H-1B nonimmigrant workers to apply for employment authorization will go into effect on May 26, 2015.  The new rule permits H-4 spouses to submit an application for employment authorization (Form I-765) on or after that date, if they are married to an H-1B worker who meets one of the following requirements:

  • Is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 Immigrant Petition; OR
  • Has been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act (AC21) relating to H-1B extensions in the case of lengthy adjudications

Typically, such applications are processed within 90 days, meaning that eligible H-4 spouses may obtain work authorization as early as late August 2015.  Individuals would not be eligible to begin working until they receive an Employment Authorization Card.  It should be noted that this rule is part of the package of immigration executive actions President Obama announced in November 2014.  It remains to be seen whether opponents of those executive actions will also seek to block implementation of this rule.

To evaluate eligibility for this benefit for yourself or an H-1B employee, please contact an immigration attorney at Hunton & Williams LLP for assistance.  The full text of the announcement may be seen here.