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A Guide on H4 EAD Automatic Extension

EAD stands for Employment Authorization Document and is given by the USCIS to eligible immigrants to work legally in the U.S. Learn more here.

Author: Massiel Silva Tadeo, Founder, Tadeo & Silva

Attorney Massiel Silva Tadeo is a partner and owner at The Tadeo & Silva Law Firm. She specializes in removal (deportation) defense, family immigration, and hardship waivers. Published on: March 22, 2024.

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What Is an H4 EAD Automatic Extension?

H4 EAD visas are issued to legal dependents, including dependent spouses, of H1B visa holders. With an H4 EAD visa, they can stay and work in the United States after obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The H4 EAD visa has an expiration date that could cause legal issues if not extended. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently announced a temporary increase in H4 EAD automatic extensions. The automatic extension period has been increased from 180 days to 540 days with this rule.

Working on an EAD extension could be difficult on your own. Consider consulting with an experienced green card lawyer.

What Is the H4 EAD Automatic Extension Rule Update?

USCIS has recently updated its policy guidance about EAD extension, under which certain applicants who have submitted Form I-765 are eligible for automatic EAD extension while their application is pending. This way, people with pending applications can prevent employment authorization and documentation gaps.

You are qualified for this extension if you have correctly submitted and filed Form I-765 for renewal application before your current EAD expires.

If you submitted the form on or after May 4, 2024, the USCIS will send you a Form I-797C Notice of Action with information about a 540-day automatic extension. This notice and the expired EAD card will be acceptable proof of EAD validity during eligible applicants’ 540-day automatic extension period.

However, if you submitted the form before May 4, 2024, you’d receive a Form I-797C Notice of Action detailing an automatic extension of 180 days. You won’t receive an I-797C notice reflecting the new EAD automatic extension period.

Consider working with EB-5 Attorneys to guide you through the EAD renewal application.

What Are the H4 EAD Laws?

The H4 EAD laws stem from immigration regulations and guidelines set forth by USCIS. These laws provide a framework for H4 visa holders to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) and engage in employment within the United States.

One key component of these laws is the provision for automatic extensions of the EAD. This is particularly relevant for those under temporary protected status, a designation given to eligible foreign nationals who cannot return to their home country due to ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Holders of the H4 EAD who fall under this category are among those who can benefit significantly from the automatic extension rule update.

The recent H4 EAD automatic extension laws update comes as a temporary final rule. This means that while the rule has been put into immediate effect, it is subject to change after a period of public comment and further review. Under this temporary final rule, the duration of the automatic EAD extension has been increased significantly from 180 days to 540 days.

This change primarily aims to address the challenges eligible EAD holders face when renewing their documents. Before this rule, there could be significant gaps between the expiration of an EAD and the approval of a renewal application, which could disrupt the individual’s employment and status in the U.S. Now, with the extended automatic extension period, these disruptions can be largely avoided.

However, it’s important to note that the automatic extension only applies to those who have correctly submitted their Form I-765 for renewal before their current EAD expires. If the form was submitted on or after May 4, 2024, the USCIS will issue a Form I-797C Notice of Action, providing information about the 540-day automatic extension.

In contrast, if the form was submitted before May 4, 2024, the applicant will receive a Form I-797C Notice of Action detailing an automatic extension of 180 days. There will be no I-797C notice reflecting the new EAD automatic extension period.

Navigating these laws can be complex, so consult with experienced immigration attorneys, such as EB-5 Attorneys, who can guide applicants through the EAD renewal application process. They can provide valuable insights into these temporary protected status regulations and the implications of the temporary final rule, helping ensure compliance and successful renewal of the EAD.

What Is the H4 Visa Extension Process?

After your work authorization documents expire, you must file relevant forms to extend your stay. Here are the necessary steps for a Visa extension.

  1. Apply for extending/changing nonimmigrant status Form I-539.
  2. File your H4 EAD application with supporting documents and mail it to USCIS.
  3. Receive your H4 EAD notice.

The feasibility of late filing will be determined under the special situation rules of the USCIS.

 

Eligibility Criteria for H4 EAD

Understanding who qualifies for an H4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is crucial for navigating the complexities of immigration law. The H4 EAD is available to spouses of H-1B visa holders who are on the path to obtaining lawful permanent resident status. This path is marked by several key milestones:

  • H-1B Visa Holder’s Status: The primary H-1B visa holder must be in the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status. This involves having an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or being granted an extension under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act.

  • Valid H4 Status: Applicants must currently hold valid H4 status, which is designated for dependents of H-1B visa holders, including spouses and children under 21 years of age.

  • Application Process: Eligible H4 visa holders must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and pay the required fee. Upon approval, the EAD grants them the right to work in the United States in any sector or position, without restriction.

This eligibility criterion ensures that the U.S. can retain talented individuals contributing to the economy while they transition to permanent residency. It’s a testament to the country’s commitment to supporting families throughout the immigration process.

 

What Happens When H4 EAD Expires?

Before the recent update on EAD extensions, if you did not have a new EAD, you would be placed on leave without pay until you received your new EAD. You could also be fired from your job if the process took more than six weeks and rehired once your new EAD had been issued.

 

How Long Does it Take to Process an H4 EAD Extension?

The current USCIS processing time of H4 visa applications for extension is around 8 to 9 months. For now, there is no premium processing option for the EAD extension.

Contact an experienced H1B immigration lawyer to help you with the process.

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