6th May 2015
On May 26, 2015, the USCIS estimates that 140,000 spouses of H-1B visa holders will be eligible to apply for an employment authorization document or EAD card. Previously, the spouses of professionals holding an H-1B visa could accompany their spouse to the United States but could not be employed unless they obtained a visa of their own, unconnected to the H-1B visa holding spouse.
This change raises a curious scenario. Spouses of H-1B visa holders will now have greater freedom of employment than the H-1B visa holders themselves. This is because the H-1B visa has many stringent requirements that the EAD card is not beholden too. H-1B visa employees for instance need to be employed in a professional occupation for which they have the proper bachelor’s level of education to occupy. H-1B visa holders need to have an employer in most situations or face very harsh scrutiny in starting or owning their own businesses.
In juxtaposition, EAD card holders can accept employment with any, I repeat, any employer. Their employment does not need to be in a professional position. Their employment does not need to be in a field in which they have a formal education. EAD card holders can even be self-employed. Finally, EAD card holders can change employers without going through the process of applying again for yet another visa as their H-1B spouses must do.
Therefore, spouses of H-1B visa holders who qualify for EAD, in the short term at least, have greater freedom to contract with whomever they choose than their H-1B holding spouses.