Due to an immigration application backlog, which was worsened by the pandemic’s adverse effects on USCIS and the nearly four-month office closure of Application Support Centers (ASCs) and Field Offices, the wait time for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) processing has been ranging anywhere from six to 12 months. This delay in processing has interrupted the lives of thousands of individuals looking to work and companies looking to hire or retain foreign employees. Over the last two years, companies have faced obstacles in onboarding new employees; some have had to terminate employees in critical roles within their organizations while the employees wait for their EADs. The loss of these employees has disrupted workflow and revenue for affected companies.
To seek relief from these delays, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and its partners filed a lawsuit. On Nov. 10, AILA settled with the Department of Homeland Security. The settlement provides structural changes for nonimmigrant H-4 and L-2 spouses who have experienced delayed processing times for their EAD applications.
The highlights from the settlement are:
- Automatic extension (until the end date of the individual’s H-4 status, 180 days from the EAD expiration date, or whichever is earlier) of employment authorization for H-4 spouses who timely filed their renewal applications.
- Work authorization for L-2 spouses without needing to apply for an EAD.
There are still questions. The settlement does not address work authorization for E-3, E-2, and J-2 dependents, and it remains to be seen 1) how USCIS will implement these changes, 2) how long it will take for them to do so; and 3) how USCIS will process the backlogged EAD applications.
Those with questions about the settlement or how to complete I-9s for those individuals affected by the settlement should work with experienced immigration counsel.