Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) led a letter with 22 House colleagues urging Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Mayorkas and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Jaddou to reduce processing delays for spousal work authorizations. As a result of this backlog, tens of thousands of immigrant spouses across the country – many of them highly educated women in the STEM fields – have been unable to work and provide for their families over the past year, causing unnecessary financial hardship for themselves and their loved ones.  

The letter requests that DHS work expeditiously to implement the recent Shergill v. Mayorkas settlement; eliminate additional causes of delays by reinstating joint adjudication or primary and dependent visas and work authorizations; and expand the premium processing to additional visa categories, including H-4 and L-2 EADs.

Eligible H-4 visa holders are dependents of H-1B workers who have been approved for an employment-based green card. These spouses have been allowed to obtain work permits since 2015. L-2 visas are held by the spouses of executives, managers or "specialized knowledge staff.” These spouses have been allowed to work in the U.S. since 2002.

The letter says in part, “Due to the Trump administration’s changes to visa processing, H-4 and L-2 visa applicants have recently had to wait 11 months to two years to have their documents renewed—even though it only takes USCIS 12 minutes to process Form I-765 and 24 minutes to process Form I-539.

“The vast majority of H-4 and L-2 workers are highly educated women, many of whom are employed in STEM fields in the United States. Processing delays have left their families without a second income, forcing them to dip into their savings, sell their homes, and take other drastic measures to stay on their feet. These delays also threaten the over $7.5 billion that these workers contribute to the U.S. economy.

“In order to address this issue more holistically, we request that joint adjudication of primary and dependent visas and work authorizations be reinstated… We also urge USCIS to quickly expand premium processing to additional visa categories, including H-4 and L-2 visas and EADs.”

Full text of the letter is available here.