May 19, 2022 Article

Changes Affecting Employment Authorization for L-2, E, and H-4 Dependent Spouses

On November 12, 2021, USCIS announced that L-2 and E dependent spouses are no longer required to apply for an EAD to work in the United States. Instead, L-2 and E dependent spouses are authorized to work in the United States just by virtue of holding L-2 or E status but may continue applying for EADs, if desired.

The USCIS policy announcement also allows certain H-4 spouses to obtain automatic extensions of their EAD for up to 180 days. The automatic extension also applies to L-2 and E dependent spouses that choose to apply for an EAD as proof of work authorization. Note that the automatic EAD extension is available in very limited circumstances, and L-2, E, and H-4 dependent spouses should speak to their immigration attorney to explore their eligibility.

These changes are a significant departure from USCIS’s previous policy, which required L-2 and E dependent spouses to apply and wait for an EAD to be issued before they could begin working. In addition, L-2, E, and H-4 dependent spouses were not previously eligible for automatic EAD extensions. Given that government processing times for EADs can be a year or more, L-2, E, and H-4 dependent spouses regularly experienced long periods of unemployment while they waited for their EADs to be approved. USCIS’s policy change should help alleviate some of the work authorization issues experienced by these spouses.

Challenges and Implementation of the New Policy for L-2 and E Dependent Spouses

This USCIS policy change has been a welcome improvement, but it did not automatically create a system that provided L-2 and E dependent spouses with documentation needed to prove they can lawfully work in the United States. Specifically, the government did not provide L-2 and E dependent spouses with documents needed to complete Form I-9 (a required form used by employers to verify an employee’s ability to work in the United States).

USCIS and CBP have begun annotating L-2 and E entry and approval documents (Form I-94) with an “S” designation to indicate that the holder is a dependent spouse and thus eligible to work. The documents with an “S” designation can be used by L-2 and E dependent spouses to show employers they are authorized to work in the United States. If an L-2 or E dependent spouse receives an entry or approval document without an “S” designation, they should contact their immigration attorney to discuss potential paths for correcting their documents.

Moreover, USCIS announced on March 18, 2022, that it will begin mailing new notices beginning on April 1, 2022, with the new codes to E or L spouses age 21 or over who have an unexpired Form I-94 that was issued before January 20, 2022. An E or L spouse who is under the age of 21 should request a notice by emailing [email protected]

For more information on USCIS’s L-2, E, and H-4 employment authorization changes, please contact Mariana Baron at [email protected].

Firm Highlights


U.S. News – Best Lawyers Ranks Preti Flaherty Among 2023 Best Law Firms

Preti Flaherty has been named among the 2023 Best Law Firms by the U.S. News – Best Lawyers rankings. To be eligible for ranking, a law firm must have at least one attorney named...


Preti Flaherty Announces Attorneys Kristy Abraham and Mariana Baron Promoted to Partner

Preti Flaherty is pleased to announce that the firm’s partnership has named two new partners: Kristy Abraham and Mariana Baron. Both attorneys stand out as distinguished practitioners in the field of corporate law and...


FY2024 H-1B Registration Fact Sheet for Employers

Registration Process To file H-1B petitions subject to the FY2024 cap for an employee, you must first electronically register and pay a $10 fee for each electronic registration. The electronic registration includes basic information about...


What Are My Options If My H-1B Registration Was Not Selected?

The H-1B nonimmigrant visa category allows employers to sponsor foreign nationals performing work in a “specialty occupation.” This typically requires an offer of employment in a job requiring at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree...


Considerations When Terminating a Foreign Worker (H-1B, H-1B1, E-1/E-2, E-3, TN, L-1, O-1)

Terminating an employee is always a difficult decision. Terminating a foreign worker has additional challenges and consequences that must be considered, and employers must ensure they comply with state and federal law. An employer...


New EEOC Poster Requirement and Guidance on Notice-Posting in Hybrid Workplaces

A modified version of this article was published in Mainebiz on February 3, 2023. Read the article here . The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently updated the “EEO is the Law” poster and...


H-2B Temporary Visas: Additional 35,000 Coming in Second Half of FY 2022

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced the forthcoming publication of a joint temporary final rule to make available an additional 35,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas...


Preti Flaherty Continues Year of Remarkable Growth with Addition of Five New Attorneys

Preti Flaherty is pleased to announce the arrival of five new Associates to the firm: Scott A. DeLong, Christopher S. Knight, Kijana Plenderleith, Harper A. Weissburg, and Joshua D. Williams. In our Portland, Maine, office...


35,000 Additional H-2B Visas Now Available for the Second Half of Fiscal Year

On May 18, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a temporary rule authorizing the issuance of additional 35,000 H-2B visas for the second half of Fiscal...


What to Expect When You're Expecting: Two New Federal Laws Expand Workplace Rights and Protections for Pregnant and Nursing Employees

On December 29, 2022, President Biden signed two (2) bills into law that expand workplace protections for pregnant and nursing employees—the  Pregnant Workers Fairness Act  (the "PWFA") and the  Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for...