The White House yesterday has announced a series of notable improvements to the nation’s business immigration scheme. The main one of interest to readers of this blog will be that certain H-4 visa holders will be authorized to receive employment authorization cards (EAD cards). These EAD cards will allow these H-4 workers to work at any US employer for the duration of the validity of the card. The period of validity is expected to mirror the H-1 primary Beneficiary’s period of validity.
However the press release limits the work authorization to “spouses of certain high-skill workers on H-1B visas.” The press release does not define “high-skill workers” and so it is unclear if the White House means STEM workers, all H-1B workers, or some other definition.
A 2012 U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Retrospective Review of Existing Regulations – Progress Report sought to extend employment authorization to H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants “who have begun the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment and have extended their authorized period of admission or "stay" in the United States under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21).” MU Law first noted this Report in December 2012.
That language appeared to limit H-4 EAD authorization only to spouses of H-1Bs who were stuck in their H-1B beyond six years because of retrogression. It remains to be seen what the White House means by this latest press release. Nonetheless yesterday’s announcement clearly is a step in a positive direction.