U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to address automatic extension of employment authorization for certain H-4, E, and L nonimmigrant dependent spouses. USCIS is also rescinding the 2002 Legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service memorandum entitled, “Guidance on Employment Authorization for E and L Nonimmigrant Spouses, and for Determinations on the Requisite Employment Abroad for L Blanket Petition”. This guidance, contained in Volume 10 of the Policy Manual, is effective immediately. The guidance contained in the Policy Manual is controlling and supersedes any related prior guidance.
- Provides that certain H-4, E, or L dependent spouses qualify for automatic extension of their existing employment authorization and accompanying EAD if they properly filed an application to renew their H-4, E, or L-based EAD before it expires, and they have an unexpired Form I-94 showing their status as an H-4, E, or L nonimmigrant, as applicable.
- Provides that the automatic extension of the EAD will continue until the earlier of: the end date on Form I-94 showing valid status, the approval or denial of the EAD renewal application, or 180 days from the date of expiration of the previous EAD.
- Provides that the following combination of documents evidence the automatic extension of the previous EAD, and are acceptable to present to employers for Form I-9 purposes: Form I-94 indicating the unexpired nonimmigrant status (H-4, E, or L), Form I-797C for a timely-filed EAD renewal application (Form I-765) stating “Class requested” as “(a)(17),” “(a)(18),” or “(c)(26),” and the facially expired EAD issued under the same category (that is, indicating Category A17, A18, or C26).
- Provides that E and L dependent spouses are employment authorized incident to their status and therefore they are no longer required to request employment authorization by filing Form I-765 but may continue to file Form I-765 if they choose to receive an EAD.
Note, however, that until such time as USCIS can implement changes to the I-94 to distinguish E and L spouses from E and L children, E and L spouses would still need to rely upon an EAD as evidence of employment authorization to present to employers for completion of Form I-9. Until the notation on Form I-94 issued to E and L dependent nonimmigrants is revised, Form I-94 solely indicating E or L nonimmigrant status is insufficient evidence of employment authorization under List C of Form I-9.