Biden Reaches Settlement for Spouses of Qualified Immigrants
Automatic employment permits for spouses of immigrant workers
On Wednesday, November 10, the Biden administration reached an agreement to allow certain L-2 and H-4 visa holders to get employment permits without going through the long waiting times resulting from the alarming backlog of immigration cases.
This settlement comes in response to a lawsuit filed in August on behalf of L-2 and H-4 visa holders, who have had to go through periods of unemployment due to backlogs within the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services).
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Who are L-2 and H-4 visa holders?
Spouses of foreign workers who are H-1B and L-1 visa holders are able to come to the US on H-4 and L-2 visas respectively.
To give a little more context:
- The H-1B visa is available for highly qualified foreign workers in fields such as science, technology, engineering and research.
- The L-1 visa is available for inter-company transfers for manager or executive positions.
It is also important to explain that spouses of H-1B and L1 visa holders, that is H-4 and L-2 visa holders, have the possibility to apply for an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) to also work in the country during their stay.
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Background: The lawsuit and its resolution
Usually, spouses of H-1B and L-1 visa holders can renew their employment permits up to six months before their expiration date, but due to multiple influential factors, the backlog of immigration cases has increased disproportionately over the past few years, causing the USCIS to take longer than usual to adjudicate these applications.
Hundreds of thousands of H-4 and L-2 visa holders have not been granted employment permits for several months due to long waiting times, and have even lost their jobs as a result.
Therefore, a lawsuit was filed in August and the Biden administration granted some of the requests.
According to the new agreement:
- All L-2 visa holders will not need to apply for an EAD, but their visa will serve as a legitimate document to work.
- If the USCIS does not process H-4 visa holders’ employment authorization renewal applications in a timely manner (up to six months prior to expiration), then H-4 visa holders will have an automatic 180-day employment permit extension while the USCIS processes their cases.
Although the USCIS has not yet announced when this new rule will go into effect, it is undoubtedly excellent news for spouses of H-1B and L-1 visa holders who have been stranded in the middle of bureaucratic hurdles.
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