USCIS increases automatic extension for some expiring work permits by up to a year

iNDICA News Bureau-

The Indian American community has welcomed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announcement Tuesday that the automatic extension period for employment authorization and employment authorization documents (EADs), available to certain EAD renewal applicants is being increased temporarily to 540 days from the current 180.

The increase, which goes into effect May 4, will help avoid gaps in employment for non-citizens with pending EAD renewal applications and stabilize the continuity of operations for U.S. employers.

“As the USCIS works to address pending EAD caseloads, the agency has determined that the current 180-day automatic extension for employment authorization is insufficient,” USCIS Director Ur M Jaddou said.

“This temporary rule will provide those non-citizens otherwise eligible for the automatic extension an opportunity to maintain employment and provide critical support for their families, while avoiding further disruption for U.S. employers,” he added.

The move is likely to benefit thousands of Indian immigrants working in the U.S. It will immediately help about 87,000 immigrants whose employment authorizations have lapsed or are set to lapse in the next 30 days. Overall, the government estimates that as many as 420,000 immigrants renewing work permits will be protected from losing their ability to work while their applications are being processed.

Ajay Bhutoria, who is on President Joe Biden’s Advisory Commission for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, welcomed the change and called it a big relief for immigrant workers and a step in the direction of the broader goal of reducing the visa processing backlog.

“The policy is meant to address the unprecedented backlog of 1.5 million work-permit applications at the nation’s legal-immigration agency, leaving tens of thousands unable to work legally and exacerbating labor shortage,” Bhutoria told indica.

He said this is good news for employers, too, as many companies are facing staffing issues and will be able to keep their eligible immigrant employees on expired documents for up to 540 days. That means tens of thousands of people past their 180-day window have as much as another year of work authorization now.

A statement by the USCIS said the organization’s financial condition had been precarious for several years, impairing efficient completion of caseloads. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated these challenges in 2020, in addition to a hiring freeze and the threat of furlough leading to workforce attrition and severely reduced capacity.

In 2021, before the USCIS could recover from these fiscal and operational constraints, there was a “sudden and dramatic” increase in EAD initial and renewal filings.

The new temporary rule, which only applies to those EAD categories currently eligible for automatic extension of up to 180 days, will provide additional automatic extension of up to 360 days to eligible applicants who have filed the renewal application in Form I-765 in time and which is pending during the 18-month period after publication of the rule.

Non-citizens with pending EAD renewal applications whose EAD has expired and the 180-day automatic extension period has lapsed will be granted an additional period of employment authorization and EAD validity beginning May 4, 2022, and lasting up to 540 days from the date of expiry of their EAD, so that they may resume employment if they are otherwise eligible.

Non-citizens with a pending renewal application still covered under the 180-day automatic extension will be granted an additional up to 360-day extension for a total of up to 540 days past the expiry of the current EAD.

Non-citizens with a pending renewal application and valid EAD May 4, 2022, or who file a timely EAD renewal application before Oct 27, 2023, will be granted automatic extension of up to 540 days if their EAD expires before the renewal application is processed.

The automatic extension will end upon notification of a final decision on the renewal application or the end of the 540-day period, whichever is earlier.

The USCIS believes this time frame will allow it to address staffing shortages, implement additional efficiencies, and meet Director Jaddou’s recently announced goal of achieving a three-month cycle time for EAD applications by the end of FY23.

Beginning Oct 27, 2023, automatic extension of employment authorization and EAD validity will go back to the up to 180-day period for eligible applicants who file their renewal applications in time.