A welcome news for H-4 dependent spouses, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B principal workers would become eligible to work. Prior to this proposal, unlike, the L-2 dependent spouses (dependents of L-1A and L-1B visa holder), who are allowed to work and can apply for employment authorization anytime during their stay in United States, the H-4 dependent spouses were not permitted to work. It should be noted that not all H-4 dependents are eligible for obtaining employment authorization under the new proposal. DHS has clarified that only those H-4 dependent spouses are eligible for obtaining employment authorization whose H-1 principal has:
- An approved Form I-140; or
- Have been granted an extension of their authorized period of stay in the United States under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21) as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. AC21 permits H-1B workers seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit.
H-4 dependent visas are issued to H-1B principal’s immediate family members such as spouse and unmarried children below the age of 21 years. These H-4 dependents can travel to United States and stay with their H-1B principal worker’s authorized period. As stated above, under current regulations, a H-4 dependent spouse is not authorized to work. However, the regulation provide certain privileges to these H-4 dependents including:
- Applying for driving license;
- Applying for college or school to study;
- Opening a bank account;
- Since H-4 dependents cannot apply for Social Security Number (SSN) as they are not allowed to work, instead they can get Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax purposes.
Notably, there is no change on H-4 dependent children status to work, who are not permitted to work. The new proposal would only apply to H-4 dependent spouses. The proposed new rule will benefit the Indian Diaspora because the waiting period for getting a Green Card through employment is more than 10 years. During this time, the H-4 spouse is not permitted to work, which is not beneficial to both the US economy and the H-4 dependent. Whereas dependents of other non-immigrant work visas such as L, E, and TN are allowed to work.