U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued policy guidance to address automatic extension of employment authorization for H-4, E, and L nonimmigrant dependent spouses. Per the new guidance, effective immediately, certain H-4, E, and L dependent spouses qualify for an automatic extension of their existing employment authorization document (EAD) if they properly and timely filed an application to renew their EAD and they have an unexpired Form I-94 for H-4, E, or L nonimmigrant status. If both criteria are met, the existing EAD’s validity period is automatically extended and will remain valid until the earlier of: (1) the expiration date on Form I-94; (2) the approval or denial of the EAD renewal application; or (3) 180 days from the expiration date of the previous EAD.
For Form I-9 employment eligibility verification purposes, the following combination of documents is acceptable to present to employers as evidence of the automatic extension:
1. Form I-94 indicating unexpired H-4, E, or L nonimmigrant status;
2. Form I-797C for a timely filed EAD renewal application with a requested class of (a)(17), (a)(18), or (c)(26); and
3. The facially expired EAD issued under the same category.
The policy guidance additionally provides that E and L dependent spouses are employment authorized incident to their status and are no longer required to request employment authorization by filing Form I-765. However, such dependent spouses may continue to file Form I-765 if they choose to receive an EAD. Until the notation on Form I-94 is revised to distinguish E and L spouses from E and L children, E and L spouses will still need to rely upon an EAD as evidence of employment authorization to present to employers for completion of Form I-9.