USCIS Announces Limited Relief for H-4 Spouses

Today USCIS announced relief for a limited number of H-4 spouses who are awaiting the ability to work in the U.S.

Our reading of the announcement is that there are 2 groups of H-4 spouses who will benefit:

  • H-4 visa holders whose spouse has an approved I-140 petition for permanent residence
  • H-4 visa holders whose spouse has been granted H-1B status under what is know as “AC-21”. This provision allows H-1B visa holders seeking lawful permanent residence to remain and work in the U.S. beyond the ordinary 6-year limit in H-1B status.

Since many of our employment-based immigrant visa clients fall within categories that allow them to concurrently file an application for Adjustment of Status (AOS), including their immediate family members, and since the Employment Authorization Document for all eligible family members is issued during the pendency of the AOS application (usually within 60 to 90 days), the initiative by USCIS will be of limited benefit.

However, for those whose country of origin is India or China, the new policy could be extremely helpful. Currently, H-1B visa holders seeking permanent residence and whose country of origin is India or China may have a very long wait time to become eligible to apply for AOS, depending on their employment-based preference category. This is due to the lengthy wait times for priority dates to become current for India and China for certain preference categories. For these clients, we are excited to use these new H-4 provisions starting on May 26, 2015, when it goes into effect.