If you are an L-1 or H-1B visa holders’ spouse, there is good news for you. Following the settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by 15 plaintiffs against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), spouses of L-1 ns H-1Bs will from now find it easy to work in America while avoiding employment gaps occasioned by the lengthy Employment Authorization Document (EAD) processing.
In the settlement agreement reached on Wednesday, the 16th of November, 2021, L-1 visa holders will receive immediate work authorization. This means that spouses of individuals deputed to the US through intracompany transfers will not need to apply for work authorization to work in America.
What The Settlement Means For H-1B Spouses
This settlement also means that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the immigration wing of DHS, will allow for an extension of employment authorization for certain H-4 spouses of H-1B visa holders for a maximum of six months. This move ensures that applicants don’t suffer employment gaps caused by the long EAD renewal process.
One of the first members of the class-action lawsuit knows the full impact of these delays. She first came to the US on a student visa and later returned on an H-4 visa as an H-1B visa holder’s spouse. Because of her status, she was eligible for EAD and started working as a quality assurance auditor in the health care sector in Massachusetts. Like her spouse, she filed for an EAD extension on the 25th of August 2020; because of delays caused by the renewal process, her employer had to find her replacement.
“H-1B and L-1 visa holder spouses have been disproportionately affected by USCIS delays at processing EAD extension applications,” cited the Godoy Law Office. New reforms will provide significant relief for the affected families and reduce the workload on the USCIS.
Limitations Of The New Policies
There are limitations to these new policies. Based on the settlement’s terms, H-4 nonimmigrant visa holders who file their EAD and L-539 concurrently will receive only a brief extension up to the expiration date of their current I-94. Additionally, L-2 visa holders without an I-94 will need an EAD to work until they acquire L-2 spousal I-94.
Longstanding Advocacy For The New Policies
The lawsuit had the backing of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), with its litigation partners being attorneys Steven Brown and Jonathan Wasden. According to Jesse Bless, the director of AILA’s federal litigation, the settlement marked a historic change to L-2 visa holders who will now work without renewing their status. Speaking of the settlement, Bless said AILA’s membership had advocated for the correct statutory interpretation for a long time and was delighted at the settlement, giving relief to H-4 spouses.
AILA was not alone in advocating for these changes. Over the years, the American chamber of commerce has also tried to make the USCIS see the rationale and grant L-2 visa holds automatic employment authorization in line with their status and have H-4s EAD extended if their EAD expires before their H-4 status.
Although he is happy with the settlement, Wasden lamented that USCIS could have made the changes without wasting four months in litigation while affected persons stayed out of jobs.
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