USCIS Expands Work Authorization for Nonimmigrant Spouses

November 17, 2021

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued confirming that, effective November 12, 2021, certain dependent spouses of individuals in H-4, E and L status will qualify for an automatic extension of work authorization up to 180 days.

Employers should accept the following documents for I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification purposes during the automatic extension period: (1) an unexpired I-94; (2) a Form I-797C Notice of Action for a timely-filed application to renew an employment authorization document (EAD); and (3) a facially expired EAD.

Moreover, in its new policy guidance, USCIS has confirmed that E and L spouses are employment authorized “incident to status.” This decision by USCIS supersedes guidance from 2002 which required E and L spouses to first apply for an EAD before beginning employment. Currently, EAD applications are taking several months to over 1 year for USCIS to process. With employment authorization now “incident to status,” an E or L spouse is authorized to work immediately upon admission to the U.S. without the need for an EAD.

According to the USCIS announcement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will take immediate action to revise Forms I-94 to include a notation, where applicable, that the bearer is an E or L dependent spouse. The revised Form I-94 with the proper notation is an acceptable (i.e., a document that establishes employment authorization) for I-9 purposes.

A dependent E or L spouse may still apply for an EAD which is acceptable as a (i.e., a document that establishes both employment authorization and identity).

Please feel free to contact our office for more information on work authorization for nonimmigrant spouses or any other immigration-related matters.