Employment Authorization Policy Changes for Certain H-4, E, and L Dependent Spouses

In the long-expected result arising from Shergill, et al. v. Mayorkas, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have agreed upon a settlement to provide relief to spouses of certain non-immigrant visa classes who have been disadvantaged by lengthy delays in processing times for work authorization.


L-2 nonimmigrant spouses, E-1 and E-2 nonimmigrant spouses, and certain classes of H-4 nonimmigrant spouses – those H-4 holders whose H-1B principals are beneficiaries of approved Form I-140 Immigrant Petitions or have H-1B status under 106(a) or (b) of AC-21 – are eligible to apply for and obtain work authorization. While Employment Authorization Document (EAD) renewal applications can only be filed within 180 days of expiration, USCIS processing times for such renewals have become longer and longer, resulting in loss of work authorization for H-4, E, and L spouses.

Settlement Provisions

In order to resolve the complaints brought by the litigants in Shergill, USCIS has agreed to:
  • Consider E and L dependent spouses to be employment authorized incident to their valid E or L non-immigrant status, with certain exceptions.[1] This means that E and L spouses will be authorized to work in the United States upon admission. USCIS and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) will work together to change form I-94 to show that E and L spouses are work-authorized so that form I-94 may be used for employment verification (I-9) purposes.
  • H-4, E, and L spouses may qualify for automatic extension if they properly filed an application to renew their H-4, E, or L based EAD before expiry and have unexpired I-94s evidencing valid status;
  • Such extension will continue until the earlier of:
  • End date of valid status on Form I-94
  • Approval or denial of EAD renewal application
  • 180 days from the expiration of the previous EAD
  • An unexpired form I-94, form I-797C Notice of Action showing a timely-filed EAD renewal application with a requested class of (a)(17), (a)(18), or (c)(26), and a facially expired EAD card will be acceptable to evidence unexpired employment authorization for I-9 purposes.

If you have further questions about this important settlement and change in USCIS policy towards EAD renewals for non-immigrant spouses, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com

[1] This policy, specifically, does not apply to spouses of CNMI E-2 investors from the Mariana Islands, dependents of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices (TECO). 

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