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Understanding the H4 EAD Automatic Extension
What Is the H4 EAD Automatic Extension?
An employment authorization document (EAD) allows foreign nationals to legally work and earn a living in the U.S. Without it, securing lawful employment in the U.S. would be difficult unless you’re a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident with a green card.
EADs are issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to eligible candidates upon application. However, they are valid for between 1-2 years, depending on the holder’s immigration status, after which they expire. When that happens, EAD holders can apply for a renewal with the USCIS.
But sometimes, the renewal process takes time. During that period, the EAD holder may be unable to work until they receive the new document. This could create harmful gaps in a person’s employment history and make it difficult for such people to earn a living during the processing period.
To protect people in such situations, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants automatic EAD extensions to those seeking EAD renewals if they meet certain requirements.
As an H4 visa holder, you can seek permission to work and apply for an EAD in certain circumstances. This guide can help you understand those circumstances and what you must do to qualify for an automatic EAD extension and preserve your right to work despite the expiration of your EAD.
Keep reading to learn more.
How Does the H4 EAD Work?
The H4 visa category is a derivative of the H1b visa class. It is reserved for spouses and unmarried children of H1B visa holders. The H1b visa is a non-immigrant visa, and since H4 visa holders derive their immigration status from the principal H1b, the h4 is also a non-immigrant visa.
Like many non-immigrant visa holders (other than visas created explicitly for employment purposes, like the H1b), H4 visa holders generally do not have the right to work in the U.S. But there are some exceptions.
The spouse of an H1b visa holder can apply for employment authorization and receive an EAD if the principal H1b holder:
- Has begun transitioning from a non-immigrant to a Lawful permanent resident via the adjustment of status process; or
- Has been able to extend their visa validity period beyond the conventional six-year period of stay under sections 106 (a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act.
Once you have your EAD, you can work in the U.S. lawfully until it expires.
How Do You Get an Automatic EAD Extension?
You can continue working with an expired EAD if you get an automatic extension. To qualify for an automatic EAD extension, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must properly file Form I-765 with the USCIS to apply for renewal before your EAD expires. If you wait till after the expiration date before applying for a renewal, you will be ineligible for an automatic extension.
- You belong to one of the automatic EAD extension categories. As an H4 EAD holder, you do not have to worry about meeting this requirement because USCIS lists people in your class as one of the categories of people who qualify for automatic extensions.
- The application category you selected during your application is the same as that on your current EAD. All you need to do to verify this is to check that the details in the “class requested” column of your I-765 receipt notice (which the USCIS will send you after filing your renewal application) matches the category on your current or expired EAD.
Any discrepancy between your EAD and receipt notice could indicate that you’re not eligible for automatic renewal. If that is your case, try not to panic. Instead, reach out to an experienced business immigration attorney who can help you determine your eligibility conclusively.
How Long Does the Extension Period Last?
Usually, the Department of Homeland Security ( DHS) allows for an automatic EAD extension period of up to 180 days. Meaning that EAD renewal applicants who qualify can work for an additional 180 days after their EAD expires without hassle.
But in 2022, the DHS, as the parent body of the USCIS, made a temporary final rule increasing the automatic extension period for up to an additional 360 days. This means those eligible for automatic extensions could get up to 540 days to work while their EAD renewal is being processed.
The additional extension period is available to applicants who filed their renewal applications:
- Before May 4, 2022, and whose initial 180-day automatic Extension period had expired
- Before May 4, 2022, but their 180-day extension period had not yet expired
- Between May 4, 2022, and October 26, 2023.
The rule expanding the automatic extension period is temporary and will become inactive after October 26, 2023. Anyone who applies for renewal after that date can only get the 180-day extension (if they qualify for an automatic extension).
What Happens to Your Renewal Application While the EAD Automatic Extension Period Lasts?
An automatic EAD extension does not mean your renewal application has been abandoned. Instead, the automatic extension period gives the USCIS time to process your application without you losing the right to work. Once your renewal is processed and you receive your new EAD card, you can continue to work for as long as your new EAD is valid.
But if your renewal application is denied, your automatic extension period will immediately end even if you still have some days or months left. A denial means you no longer have the right to work in the U.S., so you must do all you can to avoid such a scenario.
Most EAD denials are due to errors or inaccuracies during the application process. Understandably, applicants may be overwhelmed during the application process, which could make them prone to costly mistakes. If this is you, consider getting professional help from an experienced immigration attorney. They can take the stress off you and ensure your application meets the USCIS’s standards. That way, you can minimize the risk of a denial.
Even if your application has already been denied, you can still contact an immigration attorney at the Do Law Office. We can assess your case and help you determine the ideal steps to regain employment authorization.
Get Help With Your EAD Extension and Renewal at Do Law Office
Mistakes in the EAD renewal application process can deprive you of an EAD extension and the right to work in the US. But with help from an experienced lawyer, you can avoid such setbacks, safeguard your employment automatically status, and protect your ability to earn a living legally in the U.S.
At Do Law Office, we completely understand what having a valid EAD means to you and your family, which is why we are committed to helping people in your shoes navigate the process of obtaining or renewing their EADs. With our extensive immigration law practice experience, you can rely on us to help ensure that you do not lose the right to work.
So, if you have questions about getting or renewing your EAD or other immigration processes and entities such as the USCIS Atlanta, do not hesitate to contact us for answers. Let us help make your interactions with the immigration authorities as seamless as possible.
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