The processing times for Form I-765 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications have grown dramatically in recent years, with many applicants waiting well over a year to receive their EAD cards. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) previously provided an automatic 180-day extension to certain renewal applicants with expiring EAD cards to avoid lapses in work authorization. USCIS has determined that the automatic 180-day extension is no longer sufficient to help renewal applicants maintain their work authorization. Starting May 4, 2022, applicants who timely file I-765 EAD renewal applications under one of the eligible categories will be granted automatic 540-day extensions beyond the expiration date of their existing EAD cards. Notably, this increase will also retroactively apply to all eligible individuals who have pending I-765 applications, including those whose initial 180-day extension period has already lapsed.
This increase to 540 days, which will go into effect immediately upon publication as a temporary final rule in the Federal Register on May 4, 2022, will apply to a variety of EAD applicants, including the following:
- Refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers.
- Temporary Protected Status holders.
- Green card applicants with pending adjustment of status applications.
- E and L dependent spouses.
- Note: although E and L dependent spouses no longer need to obtain EAD cards due to other recent policy changes, those who do not have properly annotated I-94 records may still provide employers with EAD cards in order to satisfy the relevant I-9 verification requirements.
- H-4 dependent spouses with unexpired Form I-94 records.
- Note: the length of the automatic extension is limited by the validity of the applicant’s I-94 record, so this provision will not help the many applicants whose I-94 and EAD card expiration dates match. However, some individuals may be able to extend their I-94 record, particularly through international travel, and consequently benefit from this policy.
A complete list of work authorization categories eligible for this automatic EAD extension can be found on USCIS’ website (listed here) or in the text of the temporary final rule (available here).
If you have any questions about how this policy change will affect your employees or your company’s employment processes, we encourage you to reach out to the attorneys in the Michael Best Immigration Practice Group for guidance and assistance.