July 19, 2024

Advocates call on Biden administration to extend work permits


Immigration advocates are warning that hundreds of thousands of immigrants stand to lose their jobs unless the Biden administration issues an extension for expiring work permits.

A prior extension issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will expire Friday.

In May 2022, the USCIS announced that people whose Employment Authorization Document (EAD) was up for renewal would receive a document granting them 540 extra days of work authorization after the expiration date on their EAD.

But that rule came with a sunset clause, meaning that as of Friday, renewal papers will only cover EAD holders for 180 days after expiration, much less than the 16 months the USCIS is currently taking to renew EADs for asylum seekers.

“Absent another extension, the automatic extension period is once again only 180 days, but it’s taking USCIS much much longer to issue those renewals. Unless the government acts soon, immigrant workers are going to be in a situation where they’re going to lose work authorization for several months while their work permit is renewed,” said Leidy Perez, policy and communications director at the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project.

Asylum seekers are not the only immigrants in a pickle — as of April, there were 263,354 EAD applications pending for more than 180 days, 191,368 of which were linked to asylum applications.

And the pipeline for EAD applications is relentless. According to the USCIS, the agency was processing 535,764 total pending EAD petitions in April.

New York Democratic Reps. Adriano Espaillat and Jamaal Bowman last week led a letter signed by 35 members of Congress asking the USCIS to issue a new rule maintaining the automatic extension for EADs at 540 days.

The Hill has reached out to the USCIS for comment on this story.

Though the lawmakers praised the USCIS’s work to reduce the median wait time for EAD renewals, they said the agency would simply not be able to catch up to the backlog without an extension.

“Given the hundreds of thousands of immigrants that remain subject to USCIS’s continued delays, it is highly unlikely that, as of October 26, 2023, USCIS will be able to adjudicate all or nearly all renewal applications before the shorter, 180-day automatic extension period expires—which will inevitably cause applicants to lose their work authorizations before receiving a new EAD,” the lawmakers wrote.

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