U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has agreed to return to its practice of “bundling” H-4 and L-2 applications for dependent status and employment authorization with the principal’s H-1B or L-1 application. The change is expected to improve processing times for H-4 and L-2 applicants and was agreed to last week as part of a legal settlement.

Key Points:

  • Under the Trump administration, USCIS began “decoupling” H-4 and L-2 applications from principal H-1B or L-1 applications This practice exacerbated processing delays for dependent spouses, even causing gaps in work authorization, and was challenged in a 2021 lawsuit, Edakunni v. Mayorkas.
  • Under the settlement of the lawsuit, USCIS has agreed to resume adjudicating the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, for H-4 and L-2 applicants together with the underlying Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, when the forms are properly filed together.
  • The applications will be bundled whether filed under standard or premium processing.
  • The terms of the settlement will take effect Wednesday, Jan. 25, and remain in place for at least two years. USCIS is expected to issue guidance on the settlement soon.

BAL Analysis: Under the settlement, the applications must be filed together to be processed concurrently. The return to USCIS’ previous practice for adjudicating H-4 and L-2 applications is expected to ease the delays these individuals have been facing; however, at this time delays should still be expected as USCIS continues to work through its current case backlog. BAL will continue to follow this issue and will provide updates as information 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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