Over the past several years, employment authorization and Advance Parole travel authorization could be applied for together as part of the permanent resident green card process without an additional fee. Beginning in February 2011, and until recently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services approved the applications together and issued a combination EAD (employment authorization) and AP (travel authorization) card. Issuance of the employment and travel authorizations together seemed to be an efficient use of the resources of the USCIS and made things simpler for applicants.
But reports had recently been received from immigration lawyers, including our own, that EAD cards were being issued without the accompanying AP annotation. Was that an error, or a new practice?
We have now learned from the American Immigration Lawyers Association that this change was intentional. The AILA was informed by the USCIS “that the processing change is intentional as the agency is working through the EAD backlog and is prioritizing EAD adjudication as it seeks to avoid applicants experiencing a lapse or prolonged lapse in employment authorization. At present, there is no additional information available on the scope or duration of this procedural change.”
This separation of the employment authorization and travel authorization processes is short-sighted and inefficient, and could have significant negative consequences for individuals applying for travel authorizations. AP applicants who are also applying for green cards cannot travel abroad without first receiving AP travel authorizations. If the USCIS reduces the backlog of EAD card applications, which would be positive, it does so at the expense of AP applicants.
Individuals who have EAD cards but not AP authorizations, and who need to travel abroad, may be able to obtain an emergency AP travel authorization at the local USCIS office. However, the process is tedious and needs to be undertaken in what is sure to be a stressful situation.
We will keep you posted on any developments regarding this issue.
For a printer-friendly copy, click here.