H-4 dependent spouses are now eligible to work in the United States. Previously, such family members of H1-B visa holders faced an eight- to eleven-year wait for eligibility to work legally. Nearly 180,000 spouses will benefit from this law during its first year.
Who is Eligible?
H1-B spouses who has an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
spouse with H1-B status
There is still a 3-month process to go through with this new approval. H-4 spouses will need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document by submitting an Application for Employment Authorization. Applicants must pay a $380 filing fee and submit two passport-style photos with the application. The waiting time is approximately three months.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting applications on May 26, 2015. Applications postmarked before May 26 will be rejected.
Prior to this ruling, H1-B workers, who are generally well-educated tech workers, were allowed to bring their spouse to the United States with them, but that spouse was not allowed to seek employment. They could apply for H1-B status as well, however the process is quota-based and in many countries spots are filled through a lottery system to ensure fairness. Even if a spouse was chosen for a visa, the company sponsoring them could be in a different city or state than their spouse.
The threat of deportation has also lead to spouses staying in troubled or abusive marriages out of fear, since H4 dependent spouses cannot work, get a social security number or bank account, or file for an extension for their H4 visa.
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