The ability to move to the United States after your spouse starts work under an H1-B visa can be exciting and many people who come to the U.S. on H4 visas use the opportunity to explore the U.S. However, many people also want to work in the United States, even if their spouse is able to provide for the family. Up until May 26, 2015, people who held a H4 visa were unable to work in the United States, even if they wanted to. However, in 2015 the laws changed allowing some H4 visa holders to work in the U.S. by allowing H4 visa holders to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD).

What is an EAD?

An EAD is an authorization from the U.S. government that allows foreign nationals to work within the United States.

How can an H4 visa holder get an EAD?

If you have an H4 visa, you may apply for an EAD if you fall into one of two categories:

Category 1 – Your spouse has an approved I-140 petition.

An I-140 petition is an application that allows a person who is not a U.S. citizen to work permanently in the United States. Some I-140 petitions may be submitted by the employer; others can be submitted directly by the person who wishes to work permanently within the United States. If your spouse has an approved I-140 petition and you are living in the U.S. on a H4 visa, you can now apply for an EAD!

Category 2 –  Your spouse has extended his or her H1-B visa beyond the initial 6-year approval period and is waiting for an approved labor certification (LC) or I-140 petition.

If your spouse has been working in the United States under an H1-B visa and has submitted a I-140 application but has not received a final denial or decision of revocation, you can apply for an EAD. The length of time your spouse has worked in the U.S. beyond the initial 6-year approval does not have an effect on your EAB application status.

What is the EAD application process?

In order to apply for an EAD, an H4 visa holder must submit an I-765 application and a filing fee of $380, along with the required supporting documentation listed on the I-765 application.

Once the application is submitted, the United States Citizen and Immigrations Services (USCIS) has committed to processing EAD applications within 90 days.

EAD’s are typically valid for 1 year but can be renewed on an ongoing basis.

What kind of work can I do if I receive an EAD?

The great news is that once you are approved for an EAD you can perform any type of work you would like in the United States. Just remember, you must have your physical EAD card with you when you start work so that your new employer can verify your eligibility to work in the United States. Once your employer verifies your eligibility, there are no restrictions on the type of work you do, the number of hours you work or who employs you.

Despite the changes in the law, the EAD application and renewal process can be confusing. If you have questions or are unsure if you qualify for an EAD under the new law, contact a talented immigration attorney to understand your options and determine whether or not you qualify for an EAD.

The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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