The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”
Although the United States is known as the land of opportunity, the opportunity to work if you're not a citizen or legal permanent resident has been significantly curbed in the last year and a half. This is because the length of EAD (employment authorization document) card processing has grown and grown. In what was previously known as a process that took about three months, the average wait time to receive an EAD card is now often taking longer than a year. AILA, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, has stated that some applicants have been informed by USCIS that their work permits may take 21.5 months to be processed.
You may remember our blog from July 2020, in which we reported a backlog of about 115,000 applications for work permits. At the time this was the result of a production/printing backlog, as well as a shortage of USCIS employees due to the pandemic and a budget shortfall. But now, almost a year and a half later, there is no excuse for such a wait. Offices have reopened since the pandemic shortage, the U.S. has had multiple waves of immigrants come, and the Biden administration announced in June that it would accelerate the issuance of work permits for certain immigrants.
Understandably people are upset that it is taking such a long time to receive such a necessary document. By many accounts it takes just 12 minutes to actually process an EAD application once it is on the right person's desk at USCIS. Because of this unreasonable delay, 49 individual and organizational plaintiffs have sued the Biden Administration, specifically the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and USCIS, seeking to hold them accountable for the extreme processing delays on EAD applications for noncitizens who are seeking Adjustment of Status (AOS) and E-2 nonimmigrant spouses. The plaintiffs want USCIS and DHS to recommit to a 90-day turnaround for EAD applications, especially considering that the applications are paid for in advance. The parties in this federal class action lawsuit are being represented by AILA and four other private law firms.
While it is hard to predict outcomes in federal courts, AILA did recently reach a settlement in a separate lawsuit regarding EAD applications against the Biden Administration. The settlement provides structural changes for nonimmigrant H-4 and L-2 spouses who have experienced delayed processing times for their EAD applications, and gives hope that the present lawsuit regarding AOS applicants and E-2 immigrant spouses may be successful.
If you have questions about a pending USCIS petition or need help in determining whether you can do anything to speed up your employment authorization document (EAD) application, please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.