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Immigration Settlement Clears Certain L-2 and H-4 Spouses for Work

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In response to a lawsuit, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has agreed to change its policy in regards to L-2 and H-4 Employment Authorization Documents (EAD). This is fantastic news for the tens of thousands of spouses of high-skilled foreign nationals who have suffered substantial delays in the processing of their work authorization—causing them to stop working or to lose their job. By law, USCIS is required to process applications within 30 days, but recently it has taken up to a year or more. 

The Settlement 

The legal settlement with USCIS will bring relief to many of the L-2 and H-4 spouses by eliminating hurdles in the employment authorization process. 
L-2: Once the settlement goes into effect, L-2 spouse visa holders will have automatic work authorization and will no longer need to apply for an EAD. Simply put, L-2 visa holders (with a valid L-2 I-94) are authorized to work. 
H-4: Once implemented by USCIS, certain H-4 spouses with EAD renewal applications—those who timely file EAD renewals and have H-4 status beyond their current EAD expiration—are eligible for an automatic extension of their work authorization for up to 180 days. The length of the auto-extension will be the earlier of the following:
  • The end of the H-4 status, as determined by their I-94 record
  • The approval or denial of the EAD application
  • 180 days from the current EAD expiration date

What the Settlement Means 

The settlement will provide a sigh of relief to many L-2 and H-4 spouses who have faced significant disruptions to their work lives due to processing delays. USCIS will also benefit from this settlement—it eliminates a huge processing backlog and frees up adjudicators to help in other workstreams. Lastly, it’s great news for the country as a whole as it adds valuable workers to an economy struggling to fill jobs.

What Lies Ahead

While USCIS has come to a settlement agreement, implementation is not immediate. USCIS is expected to announce formal policy guidance within the next 120 days that details how it will execute the new policies and address Form I-9 employment eligibility verification. There is also still litigation pending that could achieve broader changes and further address delays for employment authorization that affect H-4 spouses.

GoffWilson Immigration 

GoffWilson Immigration continues to monitor developments related to the USCIS settlement and will post updates as more information becomes available. GoffWilson solely practices immigration law and has been a valued partner to businesses and families navigating the complex and ever-changing immigration process for over three decades. Contact GoffWilson today if you have questions about the USCIS settlement or any other immigration issues.
Filed under:Immigration Law