Prior to 2019, when the spouse and children of H-1B and L-1 workers filed an extension of their status (I-539) along with the principal H-1B or L-1 extension (I-129), USCIS would adjudicate the extensions for the whole family at the same time, including any Employment Authorization Documents (I-765) for the spouse (if applicable). Even though these extensions cannot be filed more than 6 months in advance, this system worked well enough and most H-4 and L-2 EAD extensions were approved prior to the expiration of the previous card.
Then in 2019, the Trump administration began separating the extension requests for H-1B and L-1 workers from the extension applications of their families, causing significant delays. Since then, H-4 and L-2 extension applications, along with associated EAD extensions, have been taking 1-2 years to adjudicate. The plaintiffs in Edakunni v. Mayorkas filed a class action lawsuit against USCIS, stating that the agency was guaranteeing job loss for dependent H-4 and L-2 spouses “because they prohibit extension applications earlier than six months prior to expiry and then take over a year to adjudicate.”
On January 19, 2023, USCIS entered into a settlement agreement with the Edakunni plaintiffs. Beginning on January 25, 2023, USCIS has returned to “bundling” the adjudication of H-4 and L-2 extension applications and EAD applications with principal H-1B or L-1 extension petitions when these applications are filed concurrently. The terms of this agreement will be in effect for a two-year period.
What does this mean for the family members of H-1B and L-1 workers?
Hopefully, the return to bundled processing for H-1B and L-1 visa extensions with their family members’ H-4 and L-2 extension applications will mean a return to consistent work authorization for spouses and a smoother experience for all.
If you have questions about how the Edakunni settlement may affect the processing of your family members’ H-4 or L-2 extension applications or associated employment authorization applications, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 427-6163 or schedule a consultation online.
The material contained in this alert does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.
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