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Spouses of Immigrant Workers No Longer Need to Apply for a Work Permit

Nov 10, 2021

USCIS building

Thousands of spouses of immigrant workers will no longer need to apply for employment authorization to work in the United States.

The Biden administration reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit on Wednesday that will allow the spouses of L-1 visa holders to receive employment authorization as a feature of their status, without having to apply for a separate employment authorization document (EAD).

Under the settlement, the government will also automatically extend the work permits of spouses of certain H-4 spouses of H-1B visa holders whose EADs expire before their status, and file their renewal EAD applications before their current EADs expire.

These spouses are eligible for H-4 and L-2 derivative work visas under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). By law, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is required to process these visa applications within 30 days, but a severe processing backlog has led to months-long delays, causing many H-4 and L-2 spouses to lose their jobs as a result.

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A Trump-era policy requiring that these spouses have their biometrics taken when renewing their work permits added to an already massive visa processing backlog, which was further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

In March, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and lawyers from several other firms filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reverse the policy and force USCIS to give L-2 and H-4 holders automatic employment authorization extensions where required by regulations.

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