By: Richard Hanus, Esq.
Published May 3, 2022
Up until a few years ago, the renewal of Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) for foreign nationals residing in the U.S. was rarely a matter of news or drama. These days though, EAD holders and their employers are facing way too much challenge when it comes to following the law. What should be a boring, routine process for our legal immigration system has turned into one that all too often involves crisis.
First, the system is now facing an accumulated backlog of 1.5 million EAD applications. Additionally, foreign nationals are facing impossibly long processing times – more than a year in some cases – leaving many to choose between working to support oneself and complying with the law. Almost as bad, with most states’ driver license validity tied to EAD expiration dates, impacted foreign nationals also face the hard reality of giving up driving. From the employer side, companies already battling an unprecedented labor shortage are also left in a bind in maintaining their workforce.
To take a bit of the burden off of everyone though, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (US CIS) has just announced that effective, May 4, 2022, EAD validity in certain eligibility categories will be automatically extended 540 days.
First, a basic question. Who is legally eligible to live AND work in the U.S.?
1) U.S. citizens, whether by birth or naturalization, 2) Lawful permanent residents aka green card holders, 3) foreign nationals with temporary work visas AND 4) foreign nationals with Employment Authorization Documents.
Employment Authorization Documents, also known as “work permits”, are renewable documents issued by U.S. immigration authorities allowing for employment for 1 or 2 year increments, and on the basis of several dozen specified eligibility categories. Among the most common bases of eligibility for EAD issuance are for approved Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applicants, those with pending asylum or green card applications (adjustment of status), those granted Temporary Protected Status due to their home country facing an urgent humanitarian crisis and those with certain types of relief pending before the Immigration Court.
Of the several dozen EAD eligibility classes, applicants in only 18 of these classes are covered by automatic extensions – including applicants with pending green card and asylum applications. That is, upon filing for EAD renewal, applicants in classes who were already issued an EAD and upon renewal filing, were previously granted a 180 days auto extension on their EAD’s. Those same applicants are now being granted an additional 360 days (for a total of 540 days) automatic extension of their EAD’s assuming they have timely filed for an extension of their previous EAD. Importantly, no fix has been implemented for first time EAD applicants or for EAD applicants in other eligibility categories.
Overall, it is estimated that more than 400,000 foreign nationals will benefit from this new policy and be shielded from losing their jobs due to EAD expiration and delayed US CIS processing. Certainly this is a good first step, but of course there is much work to do in curtailing backlogs in this and many other aspects of our legal immigration system.
For more information on this new policy, see: https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/news-releases/uscis-increases-automatic-extension-period-of-work-permits-for-certain-applicants
PUBLISHED May 3, 2022– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2022, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois