By: Richard Hanus, Esq.
Published December 31, 2021
Inch by inch, our government is trying to clean up various messes left behind by the Trump administration when it comes to our nation’s legal immigration system. Whether it be neglected or poorly managed U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services (US DHS/CIS) service centers or understaffed U.S. consular posts abroad, too many aspects of our legal immigration system are now facing monumental, yet avoidable, delays. Add to the mix a pandemic, and the cracks in our legal immigration system are further amplified, with significant consequences for countless numbers of U.S. employers and the hundreds of thousands of foreign workers in the U.S. trying to comply with the law.
Expedited Employment Authorization for Healthcare Workers
Imagine being a foreign national residing legally in the U.S. and attempting to maintain your legal status but facing a 9 to 11 month wait to renew an employment authorization document. What is a worker or an employer to do when this delay means termination of employment? Call the 1-800 US CIS Customer Service telephone number for help? A U.S. congressional office? A high priced lawyer? The bigger question is why is this even happening in the first place, especially since the process at hand is funded entirely by the filing fees paid by applicants using the system at hand.
A sign of sensitivity and practicality from US DHS/CIS headquarters came this past week, with the announcement of “expedited” processing of the renewal of employment authorizations for certain healthcare workers. The expedite option is available for workers under the following circumstances:
- You are in possession of an Employment Authorization Document that expires in 30 days or less, or has already expired,
- You work in a healthcare related position as noted in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Opinion at Pages 7-9 and
- You are able to provide documentation confirming your employment in a healthcare related role
To request expedited EAD processing, workers meeting the above requirements must call the US CIS Customer Service Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 and speak with a telephone agent. The next big questions are: 1) how quickly will DHS/CIS act on these requests and 2) when will other classes of workers and their employers be given a remedy like this. As always, important updates on this and other immigration topics will continue to be reported on in this blog.
Interview-less Work Visa Processing at Overseas U.S. Consular Posts
In recent years, subject to certain conditions, U.S. consular posts abroad have been offering foreign workers on temporary work visas the opportunity to renew their visas without an interview. In the past week, in light of mounting backlogs and pandemic related challenges, the U.S. Department of State announced an expansion of the interview waiver program, allowing first time work visa applicants a chance at visa processing without a consular interview.
U.S. consular posts will now have the discretion to waive interviews for new work visa applicants (along with qualifying family members) in various categories including H-1B Workers in Specialty Occupations, H-3 Trainee/Special Education Visitors, L Intracompany Transferees, O Extraordinary Ability/Achievement, P Athletes/Artists/Entertainers, and Q Participants in International Cultural Exchange Programs. The expanded program also includes applicants for H-2 Temporary Agricultural and Non-Agricultural Workers, F and M Students, and J Student Exchange Visitors.
Importantly, the vast majority of work visa categories first require a stateside DHS/CIS petition approval before a foreign national is eligible for visa processing. As to how quickly and efficiently this new program will yield results is another question, and all developments on this initiative will continue to be covered here.
PUBLISHED December 31, 2021– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2021, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois