USCIS Quickly Implements New Employment Authorization Policy for H-4, L and E Spouses
On November 12, 2021, USCIS updated its Policy Manual to permit H-4, E and L nonimmigrant dependent spouses to receive automatic extension of employment authorization in certain circumstances. Earlier in the week, USCIS announced that it would implement new policies for H-4 and L spouses within 120 days. In updating its Policy Manual, USCIS moved quickly to implement the new polices and to expand the benefits to E spouses.
AUTOMATIC EXTENSION OF EADS – H-4, E and L Spouses
Effective immediately, nonimmigrant H-4, E and L spouses qualify for an automatic extension of their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) when they file to renew their EAD provided:
- The I-765 application to renew the EAD is filed prior to the EAD expiration date and
- The H-4, E or L spouse has an unexpired I-94 showing valid underlying nonimmigrant status.
For purposes of Form I-9 employment verification purposes, the nonimmigrant spouse may present the following as evidence of work authorization:
- Unexpired Form I-94 showing valid H-4, E or L-2 nonimmigrant status;
- Facially Expired EAD; and
- Form I-797C (Notice of Action/Receipt) showing a timely filed I-765 EAD renewal application
The automatic extension of the EAD is valid until:
- Expiration of the underlying Form I-94;
- 180 days from the prior EAD expiration; or
- Adjudication of the I-765 extension application, whichever comes first.
L AND E SPOUSES – EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZED INCIDENTAL TO STATUS
USCIS also clarified that it will consider L and E dependent spouses to be employment authorized incidental to their status. This means that upon admission and issuance of a valid I-94 document showing L-2 or E spousal status, E and L nonimmigrant spouses will automatically be authorized to work without the need to apply for an EAD. This applies only to E and L spouses. It does not apply to H-4 spouses or H-4, E or L dependent children.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will immediately take steps to modify Forms I-94 to distinguish E and L dependent spouses from dependent children. Once changes to the Form I-94 are made, the new Form I-94 with the spousal annotation will serve as evidence of employment authorization as a List C document for Form I-9 employment verification eligibility purposes. Only a Form I-94 annotated as an L-2 or E “spouse” may serve as evidence of employment authorization. An L or E spouse with an I-94 that does not bear the new spousal annotation must also present an EAD for employment authorization purposes.
Gibney will continue to monitor implementation of the policies, and will provide updates. In the interim, if you have any questions, please contact your designated Gibney representative or email firstname.lastname@example.org.