November 18, 2021

U.S. to Ease Work Authorization Process for Certain L-2 & H-4 Spouses

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security came to a settlement agreement with 15 nonimmigrant plaintiffs following a punitive class action relating to the long-delayed processing of H-4 and L-2 Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). The 2 major changes resulting from the settlement are the implementation of automatic extension of EAD based on a timely filed extension and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will issue guidance stating that certain L-2 spouses will have work authorization incident to status, meaning the EAD application will no longer be required for those L-2 holders.

The first major change is for automatic extension of the EAD based on timely filing of the extension request. L-2 and H-4 applicants who submit their I-765 extension in a timely fashion and continue to have L-2 or H-4 status beyond the expiry of their EAD will have an automatic extension of their employment authorization. This will end once their H-4 status expires according to their Form I-94, once the I-765 application is approved or denied; or 180 days from the expiration date on the face of the EAD.

Within 120 days, USCIS will amend I-765 receipt notices to detail the EAD auto-extension eligibility for qualifying H-4 nonimmigrants.

The second major success of the class action is that USCIS will issue guidance stating that certain L-2 spouses (to be established by a valid I-94 specifying that the L-2 is the spouse of an L-1 nonimmigrant) will have work authorization incident to status, negating the need for the additional EAD application. Within 120 days, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will change the Form I-94 to mention L-2 spouse where appropriate.

Spouses in the USA under L-2 or H-4 status will be positively impacted by the recent win and benefit from the changes resulting from the settlement agreement.

For further information on immigration in the U.S., please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team.

Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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