USCIS to Adjudicate H-4, H-4 EAD, L-2 & L-2 EAD alongside I-129

We’ve learned that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will now adjudicate H-4, H-4 EAD, L-2, and L-2 EAD applications alongside the I-129 petition for the petition for the principal H-1B & L-1. This change, which will apply to applications filed after January 25, 2023, aims to simplify the process of obtaining work authorization for certain nonimmigrant workers’ dependents.

The USCIS is changing its policy because of a settlement in Edakunni v. Mayokas, which now requires the USCIS to adjudicate I-539s and I-765s for H-4 and L-2 derivatives along with the underlying I-129 when filed together. Individually filed forms will not be bundled adjudication by USCIS. It is important to note that the new process has no effect on H-4, H-4 EAD, or L-2 work authorization eligibility. Dependent family members must still meet all of the criteria to be eligible for these benefits.

H-4 and L-2 dependent visas are available to H-1B and L-1 visa holders, respectively. The H-4 EAD is a work permit that allows the spouse of an H-1B visa holder to work in the United States while awaiting permanent residency. Similarly, an L-2 EAD is a work permit for the L-1 visa holder’s spouse.

Previously, H-4, H-4 EAD, and L-2 petitions were processed independently from the I-129 petition for the primary H-1B or L-1 worker. This frequently resulted in delays and uncertainty for dependent family members, who were forced to wait for work authorization while the petition of the principal worker was being processed.

By adjudicating these petitions concurrently, USCIS hopes to improve the process’s efficiency and consistency while reducing the burden on employers and families. This is a welcome change for many people who have been waiting for a long time to get their work permit.

To summarize, this change is a positive step toward streamlining the process of obtaining work authorization for the spouses and children of certain nonimmigrant workers. The Edakunni class action settlement reinstates concurrent processing, which according to USCIS personnel was more efficient for adjudicators. It will improve process clarity and certainty while reducing the burden on employers and families.