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Good news for spouses of H-1B visa holders! US to give automatic work authorisation permits

The United States has agreed to provide automatic work authorisation permits to the spouses of H-1B visa holders, a decision which will benefit thousands of Indian-American women. The Americal Immigration Lawyers’ Association filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of immigrant spouses in which this settlement has been reached by the Department of Homeland Security, PTI reported. 

“This (H-4 visa holders) is a group that always met the regulatory test for automatic extension of EADs (employment authorisation documents), but the agency previously prohibited them from that benefit and forced them to wait for reauthorisation. People were suffering. They were losing their high-paying jobs for absolutely no legitimate reason causing harm to them and US businesses,” Jon Wasden from the association said. 

“Although this is a giant achievement, the parties’ agreement will further result in a massive change in position for the USCIS, which now recognises that L-2 spouses enjoy automatic work authorisation incident to status, meaning these spouses of executive and managers will no longer have to apply for employment authorisation prior to working in the United States,” the association said. 

What this means for India

Spouses of H-1B and L-2 visa holders will no longer have to apply for work authorisation and need an employment authorisation document as proof in order to work in the United States.

For H-4 spouses who have lawful status and merely need to renew their employment authorisation, they will now enjoy an automatic extension of their authorisation for 180 days after expiration should the agency fail to process their timely-filed applications, the settlement says. Dependents of H-1B visa holders are issued H-4 visas.

The lawsuit sought to remove the bottlenecks in the policies that caused many spouses job loss as it may take two years to process the applications for the spouses.

As Forbes reported, one of the original plaintiffs in the suit was Divya Jayaraj who came to America as an international student and returned as the spouse of an H-1B visa holder. She worked in the health care sector. “Concurrent with her spouse’s extension, on August 25, 2020, she filed applications to extend her H-4 status on Form I-539 and EAD on Form I-765,” according to the lawsuit which claimed that Divya lost her job “because of agency inaction.”


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