The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently reached a settlement with the American Immigration Lawyers Association and its litigation partners.  The settlement provides some relief for H-4, L-2, and E dependent spouses who are anxiously waiting for the government to process their applications for employment authorization. The new policy change highlights are as follows:

  • Certain H-4, E, or L dependent spouses now qualify for automatic extension of their existing employment authorization.
    • Applicants must file the renewal before their current EAD expires. They must also have an unexpired Form I-94 showing their lawful status.
    • The automatic extension of the EAD will continue until the earlier of: the end of date of the Form I-94 showing valid status, the approval of the EAD renewal application, or 180 days from the date of the expiration of the previous EAD.
  • E and L dependent spouses have employment authorization incident to their status. Thus, they will not need to request employment authorization. They may continue to file Form I-765 if they would like to receive an EAD card.
    • So that spouses may demonstrate their valid employment authorization, DHS will modify Forms I-94 for E and L dependents. Once this change is made, the revised Form I-94 will be acceptable evidence of employment authorization.

These changes are a big step forward for many dependent spouses. However, the timing of the renewal requests will likely require analysis and creative strategies. Furthermore, we have not yet seen the updated Forms I-94 for E and L dependents. We will continue to monitor this policy change and its implementation. We know that uninterrupted employment authorization is important for our clients and their families, so we will analyze the options for our clients so that they can best take advantage of these new changes.