Continued Delays in Employment Authorization Document Processing Times
United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) processing times for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications continue to increase. EADs are relied upon by many categories of foreign nationals in order to lawfully work in the United States. The processing times vary by USCIS Service Center, in addition to the category in which the applicant is eligible for employment authorization.
EAD applicants include the spouses of certain non-immigrant employee visa holders, such as those in dependent L-2, E-1, E-2, and E-3 status, and certain H-4 dependents, in addition to those with pending adjustment of status applications. While the average processing time was approximately 3 months in early 2019 and increased to 4-5 months later in the year, it is now up to 7-8 months at some USCIS Service Centers.
The prolonged processing times for EADs are burdensome on both applicants and U.S. businesses. It is most disruptive for applicants seeking to renew their employment authorization when there is a gap between when their current authorization expires and when they receive their new EADs. Certain categories of EAD applicants with a renewal pending may benefit from an automatic 180-day extension of work authorization from the time that their current EAD expires.
Given the increasing processing times, it is difficult to know how far in advance to file for the renewal of an EAD. Typically, you cannot file to renew the EAD more than six months before expiration. There are usually other controlling factors, such as status renewal, that may be prohibitive of filing early enough to guarantee a new EAD before the expiration of the current one.
While it is possible to request USCIS to expedite the processing of an EAD, it is difficult to have such a request approved. An expedite can only be requested in certain circumstances such as severe financial loss, urgent humanitarian reasons, compelling U.S. government interests, and clear USCIS error. USCIS maintains sole discretion over such requests and considers each on a case-by-case basis.
In response to inquiries and complaints about the extended processing times, USCIS cites a lack of resources and increased caseload. EAD applications are among many other types of applications and petitions that are experiencing delayed processing by USCIS.
If you require assistance navigating the filing of petitions with USCIS, please contact one of our knowledgeable immigration attorneys at Berardi Immigration Law. We would be happy to help you with your immigration matter!