After Years of False Hope and Frustration, Many H-4 Spouses to Gain Access to EADs!

Following years of congressional deadlock, on November 20, 2014 President Obama unveiled his plans to exercise his executive powers to implement immigration reform. Included in his outline for reform was a provision to finalize new rules that will allow certain H-4 spouses to obtain employment authorization. We are still eagerly awaiting specific details regarding eligibility requirements and when, exactly, the rules will be implemented (although, a January 2015 implementation appears likely). But, one thing is clear – this will have a major impact on thousands of H-4 spouses presently living in the United States.

Under the current regulations, a person in H-4 status must wait until the adjustment of status (I-485) application is filed before becoming eligible to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD). This can take many, many years. As a result, H-4 spouses (usually wives, including a great many who are as skilled and highly educated as their respective husbands) have seen once promising careers languish. When Obama’s executive action is put into place, however, qualifying H-4 spouses will be able to join the workforce and help to strengthen our rebounding economy. The Murthy Law Firm is overjoyed on behalf of all the H-4 spouses who will finally be able to use their skills and talents to work and earn a living in the United States! And, while we would have preferred to see a rule that would have allowed all H-4 spouses to obtain work authorization, this provision will at least address a critical need in immigration law. [See Barack Obama’s Announcement on Immigration: What’s in it for Indians in the U.S., The Economic Times,  by ET Bureau, 21.Nov.2014.]

The Murthy Law Firm has followed the topic of work authorization for H-4 spouses for several years and provided updates to our readers in order to separate fact from fiction. In a December 2012 entry on MurthyDotCom, we addressed a proposal for EAD authorization for H-4 spouses that was pending review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Although the proposal initially caused a flurry of excitement in the immigrant community, we were quick to point out that the proposal was far from certain, and had to undergo a series of bureaucratic measures before it could potentially take effect, including a regulatory review, publication in the Federal Register, and a period of public comment. [See Proposal for H-4 Spouse for EAD in Limited Circumstances, MurthyDotCom, NewsBrief, 24.Dec.2012.]

More recently, we tempered enthusiasm regarding a similar proposed rule change by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Although the proposal was promising, in an April 2014 MurthyDotCom article, we reminded readers that the DHS proposes dozens of rule changes a year, most of which never take effect, and that H-4 spouses would remain ineligible for employment unless and until the DHS actually implemented the change. [See NewsFlash! H-4 Spouses Are Not Eligible for Employment Authorization, MurthyDotCom, NewsBrief, 8.April.2014.]

With this latest push for H-4 work authorization, which is actually more of a continuation of the April 2014 proposal, the dream of H-4 EADs should soon become a reality. H-4 spouses have been waiting for years for the chance to receive employment authorization, enduring frustration and disappointment when promising proposals have not come to fruition. Now, with Obama’s announcement of executive action, it appears that they will finally be able to enter the workforce and apply their skills and knowledge. The Murthy Law Firm has guided the immigrant community with timely and accurate updates on this issue in the past, and will continue to do so during this exciting period of change.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.