US court grants relief for L2, H4 immigrant spouses seeking employment permits

November 11, 2021 01:07 PM

In a partial victory for spouses of immigrant workers in the US, they will no longer need to apply for work authorization. A US court reached a settlement for a class-action lawsuit, directing the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to allow up to 180 days auto extension on work authorization for spouses of L-1 and H1B visa holders.

While L-1 spouses or L-2 visa holders will get the extension without applying for it, H4 visa holders will still have to apply for the extension after their employment permit expires.

H4 employment authorization document (EAD) visa holders, or spouses of H-1B visa holders, were losing jobs due to an inability to renew their employment status following the backlog caused by the pandemic. Over 90% of H4 applicants are Indian women. In March, a group of mainly Indian nationals and lawyers had filed a class action suit challenging this US immigration policy that prevents L-2 and H4 visa holders from working till they don't have a work permit.

The suit was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington by a group of 15 plaintiffs, of which 13 were Indian nationals. As a result of this updated immigration policy, the applicants had to go without a job for 10-15 months while they waited for the immigration policy, the applicants had to go without a job for 10-15 months while they waited for the immigration agency to adjudicate on their petition.

However, as directed by the court now, L-2s filing for extension of work permits will now get 180 day auto extension of their work authorizations (or the I-94 expiration date, whichever is shorter). Further, H4 visa holders will get automatic extensions of their H-4 EADs until the expiration of their I-94s or 180 days from the rom the expiration of the prior EAD, whichever is sooner.

“USCIS will issue policy guidance that states L-2 spouses are employment authorised, incident to status, and in cooperation with CBP, change the Form I-94, within 120 days of effective date, to indicate the bearer is an L-2 spouse,” the court stated in a ruling document viewed by ET.
However, immigration support groups have raised concerns that this update still does not simplify the work authorization process for immigrants. Applicants will still have to spend on complicated processes to get H4 visas stamped for the 180-day auto extension.


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