"Many current H-4 EAD holders have seen their work authorization lapse, despite having applied for a renewal, because of severe processing delays at USCIS"
Spouses of H-1B visa holders have limited options to work in the U.S.
Current immigration law permits H-1B visa holders to bring their spouses and children to the United States using H-4 dependent visas. This allows families to stay together while the primary visa holder is living and working in the U.S. However, while some temporary visas (like L and E visas) automatically provide work authorization for the visa holder’s spouse, only certain H-4 spouses are able to apply for work authorization under specific circumstances.
In 2014, the Department of Homeland Security issued regulations allowing certain H-4 visa holders to apply for employment authorization documents (EADs) if their H-1B spouse has begun the process to become a lawful permanent resident, but cannot yet receive a green card because of decades-long backlogs. The critically important H-4 EAD rule provides temporary relief for H-4 spouses to be able to work and support their families while waiting to adjust their status.
Unfortunately, even the limited opportunities provided by the H-4 EAD regulation are no longer guaranteed. Despite having applied for a renewal, many current H-4 EAD holders have seen their work authorization lapse because of severe processing delays at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Average processing times for these renewals have increased from a few months to more than a year. The delays in renewing work authorization have cost many current H-4 EAD holders their jobs, driver’s licenses, and significant sources of family income.