A person in valid H-4 status may apply for an EAD if:
1) Their H-1B spouse is the principal beneficiary of an approved I-140 Employment-based Immigrant Worker Petition; or
2) Their H-1B spouse has been granted H-1B status under the AC-21 legislation, which allows for extensions of H-1B status beyond the usual 6-year maximum if:
a. The H-1B holder has been in the permanent residency process for at least one year prior to reaching their 6-year H-1B maximum. Time toward the one year begins to count on the day a PERM labor certification is filed with the DOL, or if the category does not require a PERM filing, then the day the I-140 Immigrant Worker Petition is filed with USCIS; or
b. The H-1B holder is the beneficiary of an approved I-140 in a category which is subject to immigrant visa quota backlogs.
The H-4 individual must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with supporting evidence and the required USCIS filing fee. The applicant may file the application him or herself, or may elect to have an attorney file on their behalf.
Current EAD processing times can found here.
No. For purposes of the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Document, you will need to have the EAD card in hand. The USCIS receipt notice or even approval notice is not acceptable as proof of employment authorization.