U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has entered into a legal settlement that makes significant, beneficial changes to work authorization rules for the spouses of high-skilled workers in the United States.

The case in question is Shergill, et al vMayorkas. Under the terms of the settlement:

  • H-4 visa holders will qualify for an automatic extension of their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for up to 180 days while a timely filed EAD renewal application is pending. In order to qualify for an automatic extension, the H-4 visa holder must have a valid Form I-94 for H-4 status and be applying to renew the same EAD category (C26). The EAD extension cannot exceed the H-4 validity period.
  • L-2 visa holder spouses will be provided work authorization incident to L-2 status, meaning they will not have to apply for work authorization separately from an L-2 visa. L-2 visa holders with a timely filed EAD renewal application pending will also qualify for a similar interim automatic 180-day EAD extension.

Background: H-4 and L-2 spouses have been disproportionately affected by USCIS delays in processing EAD applications, and many have been forced to stop working while waiting for their renewal card. These changes will provide much-needed relief to these individuals and their families, and will take some pressure off other USCIS work streams. BAL raised this issue in its comment in May in response to a USCIS Request for Public Input on improving access to immigration services and benefits.

BAL Analysis: USCIS will issue formal policy guidance to implement these changes, including Form I-9 guidance regarding acceptable documents. BAL will continue to follow developments related to this case and will provide additional information as it becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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