Starting on Wednesday, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will increase the automatic extension period for employment authorization and Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). Many EAD renewal applicants will automatically have an additional 360 days on top of the current 180 days to renew their documents. According to an announcement of the change, “The increase … will help avoid gaps in employment for noncitizens with pending EAD renewal applications and stabilize the continuity of operations for U.S. employers.”
USCIS has complained since 2020 that the previous administration’s efforts to discourage immigration left it undermanned and insufficiently supported to deal with the backlog of cases that grew during those years, a backlog made worse by the impact of COVID-19. “As USCIS works to address pending EAD caseloads, the agency has determined that the current 180-day automatic extension for employment authorization is currently insufficient,” USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou said in a statement. “This temporary rule will provide those noncitizens 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.”
The change effectively tells anyone looking for an EAD to get out of the line because their documents are effectively renewed, and that change will be good for those in the business community looking for stability. Some immigrants working in the United States will also benefit from the automatic extension, but it doesn’t come without caveats. For many immigrants, their driver’s licenses are tied to their work authorization, and there have been numerous examples of DMV employees not knowing about or recognizing automatic extensions like these. Without an actual, stamped or official document with the proper date, some workers are going to trade immigration concerns for transportation ones.
The change is also of no help to the many currently waiting between six months and a year for an initial decision on their applications for work documents. They don’t have anything to extend and remain in limbo.
Our most generous reading of the change is that it’s an exercise in line management, getting some matters out of the queue so that USCIS can deal with others. Nick Niedzwiadek of Politico writes, “The agency says the move will give it time to implement several of the other changes it has set up to curtail delays, onboard additional staff and increase processing efficiency.” Our fear is that the decision is simply kicking the can down the street, rearranging the backlog instead of solving it.
If you have EADs awaiting renewal, consult an experienced immigration lawyer to see how this change affects you. If we can be of help, we’d love to hear from you.
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