The USCIS implemented a new policy as early as March of 2019 that effectively changed the way spouses and children (dependents) of principal visa holders in the U.S. could receive working authorization. Prior to 2019, the USCIS had a policy that basically allowed dependents, if they were attached to the principal applicant’s visa (parent or spouse), to receive an EAD card—Employee Authorization Document without needing to have their own Biometrics appointment. Some of the benefits of granting dependents the ability to work immediately, and as a courtesy, when they entered the U.S. include the following:
- Being able to contribute to household monthly bills (especially in costly U.S. cities)
- Integrating into communities/having a sense of purpose
- Avoid losing employment in jobs that might have provided benefits needed
- Making the green card application process simpler while possibly waiting for years in the U.S.
How the new policy works
Previously, the old policy of providing working authorization (work permits) for dependents of principal visa holders only called for Biometrics appointments if there was a specific concern such as the following:
- The dependent in question had a criminal record that was worth investigating
- The dependent had a history of substance abuse
- The dependent had ties with a state sponsor of terror according to the U.S. State Department
However, the current policy decouples the dependents visa from the principal applicant, meaning that the dependent (child or spouse) now has to wait sometimes months on end to relocate to the United States (if they are not already based there) or will have to wait additionally if they are based in the United States but have no way to legally work.
Considerations for Families Involved
A new Biden Administration has been pressured so far from immigration advocates to get rid of this policy and re-instate the old policy that allows dependents to be immediately granted working authorization documents (EADs) when the principal applicant’s case is adjudicated. In the meantime, families who are stuck with the current policy and trying to make sense of their spouses' job possibilities should prepare by:
- Making sure their finances are in check for the potential month-long period (Biometrics take 3-4 weeks to schedule) they might need to wait
- Go over any supporting documentation (proof of marriage) that might warrant scrutiny from the USCIS
- Plan child support services (for spouses) while being called into a Biometrics appointment