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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Announces Positive Change to Work Authorization (EAD) Extensions

There has not been very much good news recently from United States Citizen and Immigration Services for the immigrants of America and their advocates. The early days of the Donald Trump administration have already seen a variety of attacks on America’s immigrant communities, from travel bans to escalated law enforcement. Fortunately, though, the news is not all bad: USCIS recently announced a much-overdue policy change to the employment authorization process that will now allow for the automatic extension of work permits that are awaiting renewal, provided the renewal was submitted prior to the expiration of the previous authorization.

Immigrants in the United States who are in the process of obtaining a legal status or are waiting to have the legality of their statuses decided by an immigration court may acquire legal permission to work in the U.S. by submitting an I-765 form to USCIS. Those eligible to obtain an Employment Authorization Document by submitting an I-765 form include those attempting to adjust their statuses, those who are seeking or have been granted asylum, those who are protected under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) or Deferred Action for Children of Americans (DACA) programs, among others.  Employment authorization documents are valid for one year at a time at which point they expire and must be renewed.

Once submitted to USCIS along with a filing fee of $410, the I-765 form is supposed to be approved or rejected after about three months of processing. More recently, however, the time required to process the I-765 has ballooned to about four to five months as the resources of USCIS and the immigration system continue to be overburdened and stretched to their limit. A federal hiring freeze mandated by the new President is only likely to make these delays even worse going forward.

Increased delays for the processing of the I-765 form translate into very real problems for America’s immigrants and their families, as without proper authorization they cannot be legally employed and may struggle to provide for themselves or their families. Immigrants who are already employed, meanwhile, face the prospect of losing their jobs if their authorization expires before they can renew. Those seeking to renew their employment authorization are often advised to submit the appropriate paperwork three months in advance of the expiration of their current authorization in order to avoid a lapse. The increase in processing times, however, means that more and more applicants are seeing their authorization expire while they wait for an overdue response from USCIS.

That’s why it is such great news that USCIS recently announced they would be automatically renewing employee authorization for 180 days for anyone who has submitted an I-765 prior to the date of expiration of their previous authorization and is otherwise eligible for renewal. Those who submit an I-765 renewal prior to the expiration of their existing employment authorization will no longer risk losing their right to work due to excessive administrative delays, making the lives of millions of America’s most vulnerable people significantly less difficult. It is important to note that the automatic renewal of the Employment Authorization Document does not apply to those who only applied for renewal after the expiration of their previous authorization, so it is extremely important to be proactive and make sure that you submit the I-765 sufficiently early to avoid any lapses. We here at Bardavid Law welcome the new change and hope for more of these types of policies in the future so to minimize the burdens placed on immigrants and their families due to bureaucratic delays.

-Lucas Caress