United  States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proposing a new rule that will allow the H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants to be able to obtain employment authorization if the H-1B principal has an approved I-140 petition or has received an H-1B extension through the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21).

The purpose of the proposed rule is to somewhat mitigate the financial hardship on skilled non-immigrants who are in the process of transitioning from H-1B status to lawful permanent resident status.  Because of the delays and strict quotas for employment-based permanent resident status, the transition period can stretch for several years, currently up to 11 years for professionals from India and even 10 years for high skilled Indian professionals with master’s degrees!  By allowing the H-4 spouse to be employed during the period between the approval of the I-140 immigrant worker petition and the ultimate approval of lawful permanent resident status, the financial hardship  to the family of skilled professionals will be somewhat eased.

The new proposed rule is due to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, May 12, 2014.  A required 60 day Notice and Comment period will follow in which any interested party can submit comments to the agency about the proposal.  After 60 days, USCIS will review the comments and consider changes or alterations.  A subsequent announcement will be required before the proposed rule actually goes into effect.

To see an advance copy of the new proposed rule for employment authorization for certain H-4 dependent spouses, please click:  Proposed Rule 05.12.2014