USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on Automatic EAD Extensions for Dependent Spouse (H-4, E, L)
USCIS reached a settlement agreement as a result of recent litigation (Shergill, et al. v. Mayorkas) targeting the delayed processing times for EAD applications and extensions. Previously USCIS prohibited H-4 spouses from benefiting from automatic employment authorization extensions while their EAD applications were pending. Following the settlement agreement, USCIS released new guidance allowing H-4 spouses automatic EAD extensions and clarifying that L and E spouses will now enjoy automatic work authorization incident to status. The L and E dependent spouses will no longer have to apply for employment authorization unless they prefer to have the document for identity verification and other related purposes.
While the new guidance is effective immediately, the settlement agreement notes a maximum 120-day timeline for implementing the changes. USCIS will continue to issue E and L dependent spouses EADs upon filing Form I-765. Individuals may want to continue filing I-765 since EADs are acceptable for I-9 purposes as List A documents, demonstrating employment authorization and identity.
Under the new guidance, what is acceptable evidence of work authorization for I-9 purposes?
- A document combination to include:
- an unexpired Form I-94 indicating nonimmigrant status (H-4, E, or L)
- Form I-797C (receipt notice) showing a timely-filed EAD renewal application stating “class requested” as “(a)(17),” “(a)(18),” or “(c)(26),” and
- The facially expired EAD issued under the same category (that is, indicating Category A17, A18, or C26).
Note: DHS will modify Forms I-94 for L and E dependents to distinguish spouses from children. Only once those changes are made will the revised Form I-94 be acceptable as a List C document and EAD extensions will no longer be required for L and E dependent spouses. The evidence of employment authorization must have a notation indicating the individual is an E or L dependent spouse. Prior to that change taking place, L and E dependents should follow the same guidelines outlined above for EAD applicants.
My E or L EAD extension is still pending. Can I start working again?
- E and L dependent spouses are employment authorized incident to status and therefore will no longer have to file Form I-765 once the I-94 has been updated, but may continue to file if they choose to receive an EAD.
- However, the updated guidance states: “Therefore, until USCIS is able to issue alternative evidence of employment authorization for this group, they will likely continue to request an EAD through the Form I-765 process to meet Form I-9 requirements.”
- To utilize the I-94 without an EAD as evidence of work authorization, the guidance from USCIS states that the I-94 must bear a notation indicating the individual is a qualifying E, or L spouse. CBP and USCIS could take up to 120 days to modify the I-94s.
- Until that time, E and L spouses should follow the same guidelines as H spouses with EAD extensions pending.
My H-4 and H-4 EAD extension are still pending. Can I begin working again?
- If the spouse filed an I-539 application to extend H-4 status concurrently with an EAD application, the H-4 spouse would only qualify for the auto-extension of the EAD if they have time remaining on their existing I-94.
CHALLA TIP: If the primary H-1B has already been approved and extended (perhaps after a premium upgrade), the H-4 dependent spouse can depart the country and then re-enter on the H-4 visa, using the H-1B approval notice to obtain an I-94 with longer validity. The individual would then be eligible for an automatic extension of up to 180 days or the earlier of the scenarios described below. Check out our Travel FAQs & New Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements before planning your trip.
When will the automatic extensions be valid?
- Automatic extensions for H-4, E, or L dependent spouses will be applicable if they properly file an application to renew their EAD before the expiration date (if applicable) and they have an unexpired I-94 showing their valid status.
- The automatic extension will continue until the earlier of:
- The end date on the Form I-94 showing valid status
- The approval or denial of the EAD renewal application, or
- 180 days from the date of expiration of the previous EAD
Wondering if you qualify for an automatic extension? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.
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