On Wednesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a Temporary Final Rule to address the long delays in the approval of Employment Authorization Document renewal applications. Hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals who are eligible to work in the United States have lost their jobs or otherwise been unable to work because of processing delays of roughly 6 to 20 months, depending upon the immigration category.
But that could improve before long. Under the temporary rule issued on Wednesday, the USCIS will take measures to reduce EAD renewal processing times to three months by the end of Fiscal Year 2023. The USCIS says that the measures will include “address[ing] staffing shortages” and “implement[ing] additional efficiencies.” Meanwhile, the period of automatic extension for certain EAD renewal applicants is being increased from 180 days to 540 days, effective through October 26, 2023. This change will apply to applicants for permanent resident status, persons in Temporary Protected Status, and spouses of E, H-1B, and L visa holders and other eligible applicants who timely file a Form I-765.
The automatic extension period will revert to 180 days effective October 27, 2023. Here are more details:
Extensions for eligible renewal applicants
The increase of the automatic extension period to a maximum of 540 days is available to eligible renewal applicants with pending applications who timely filed Form I-765 renewal applications as follows:
Form I-765 filed before May 4, 2022, and 180-day automatic extension has expired. Individuals in this group will receive an additional period of employment authorization and EAD validity of up to 540 days from the expiration of their EADs starting with May 4.
Form I-765 filed before May 4, 2022, and 180-day automatic extension has not yet expired. Individuals in this group will be granted extensions of up to 360 days, for a maximum of 540 days after the expiration of the current EAD.
Form I-765 filed at any time from May 4, 2022, through October 26, 2023. This category covers individuals with pending renewal applications and valid EADs on May 4, as well as those who timely file EAD renewal applications before Oct. 27, 2023. In both situations, individuals will be granted automatic extensions of up to a total of 540 days if their EADs expire before their renewal applications are processed.
If the Form I-765 renewal application is filed after October 26, 2023, the automatic extension period will be only 180 days.
Notwithstanding the above, the automatic extension period for an individual may end early, either automatically when an I-765 renewal application is denied or upon notice from the USCIS.
How the USCIS will carry it out
For I-765 applications filed on or after May 4, the USCIS plans to include on the I-765 receipts “an explanation of the up to 540-day automatic extension period.” On the other hand, the USCIS does not plan to provide new receipts for I-765 applications filed before May 4. However, renewal applicants in the second category will still be eligble for the extended extension period upon presentation of the EAD form.
The USCIS will also update I-9 Central on its website to provide employees and employers with specific guidance on completion of Form I-9, including any required notations regarding the extended authorization periods.
Based on recent USCIS guidance, spouses of individuals in E or L visa status can be eligible, upon presentation of appropriate documentation, for employment authorization as an incident of their spousal status and without the need to file an I-765 application.
The temporary extension of the eligibility periods should be good news to employees and their employers. We also look forward to late 2023, and hope that the USCIS will achieve its goal of a three-month cycle for approval of EAD applications.