News Regarding Work Permits for H-1B Spouses Not So Great After All

As I mentioned in an earlier entry (called “Great News for F-1 and H-1B Visa Holders,”) DHS has announced plans to allow H-4 spouses to work in the U.S., during the time that the H-1B visa holder is awaiting action on an adjustment of status (green card) application, and after a “minimum time spent in the U.S.”.

Thanks to Gary Endelman and Cyrus Mehta, we have a bit more information about that “minimum time.” Their column, “Working: H-4 Spouses Get to Take a Step Forward, But Is It a Giant One?” reveals that the government is requiring that H-1B holders have already received an extension of their stay in order for the spouse to qualify for a work permit (EAD) — in practical terms, that the H-1B holder have already been in the United States for six years.

As happens so often, we can describe the immigration rules, but we can’t explain the logic behind them. As Endelman and Mehta point out, nothing in the underlying immigration laws actually prohibits H-4 spouses from working in the first place. This is all a matter of agency “interpretation” (though I’d prefer the word “overthinking”).