By:  Richard Hanus, Esq.

Published November 14, 2021

Next to a U.S. passport, or permanent resident card (“green card”), the Employment Authorization Document is perhaps the most valuable document issued by our immigration authorities.  A valid Employment Authorization Document, or EAD, can make or break a foreign national’s life in the U.S., providing a legal basis to work, obtain a social security number and maintain a driver’s license.  It can also impact the operations of all kinds of businesses and organizations, including the delivery of critical goods and medical services.  Unfortunately, even as a function supported by filing fees, EAD processing continues at a snail’s pace, putting in legal jeopardy the lives of thousands of foreign nationals along with the operations of their employers.

Between the pandemic and the policies of the Trump administration, processing times for large numbers of EAD applicants have surged to record long waits, now as high as 10-11 months.  Among the  classes of EAD applicants most impacted are those who are seeking to “adjust” their status in the U.S. and have submitted I-485 applications for permanent residence or “Green Card”.  For these applicants, EAD issuance is an automatic or “ancillary” benefit, where pending I-485 applicants historically could count on receiving initial or renewed EAD’s in 90 days or less.  Crazily, with unprecedented EAD delays being the norm these days, it’s not uncommon for I-485 applicants to be called for interview, or even issued their Green Card, without the EAD ever getting issued.

With a new administration entering office almost a year ago and a new Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services having taken office in recent months, the public continues to wonder when a return to normal and reasonable EAD processing times will happen.  But…help may be on the way.  Just last week, a class action lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington D.C., with the aim of calling attention to this dismal state of EAD processing affairs, and the desperate need for a fix.  Developments on this issue will continue to be featured here.

Big EAD news for L-2 and certain H-4 visa holders

Speaking of litigation, thanks to lawsuits filed in recent months – including by the American Immigration Lawyers Association – spouses of certain work visa holders will be automatically deemed authorized to work in the U.S., including many suffering through extended EAD renewal wait times.

As a result of the litigation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services entered into a settlement where its employment authorization policies for certain spouses of H-1B specialty workers and L-1 international executives/managers transferees will be altered significantly.

Specifically, spouses of international transferees in the U.S. on L-2 visas will now be automatically authorized to be employed in the U.S. just by virtue of their visa status and with no need to seek an EAD in the first place.  Those with H-4 visas who meet certain criteria and are awaiting EAD renewal will now receive an automatic 6 month extension on their EAD’s.  Yes, these lawsuits sometimes work and yield great results!

PUBLISHED November 14, 2021– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2021, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois