Since the pandemic began processing times have gone through the roof and continue to increase across for board for all immigration-related applications.
USCIS claims it is understaffed, yet they are funded by fees, the majority of which have seen huge increases in the past few years. For example, the premium processing fee increased from $1,410 to $2500.00. According to sources, USCIS makes $700 million a year alone from premium processing for H-1B applications. So where is all this money going and why can’t they hire more staff?
Office closures and changes in policy have no doubt contributed to the delay in adjudications. However, applicants are becoming increasingly frustrated with ongoing delays in the processing of their applications. Nowhere is this frustration more evident than for applicants filing an Application for Employment Authorization (EAD). USCIS used to issue EADs within 90 days. However, they stopped doing this and ever since the processing time for these applications just gets longer and longer. We have clients that have filed applications in October 2020 that still haven’t received their EAD, at the time of writing this article. That is over 14 months! So, is there anything that can be done to help expedite these types of applications?
For details regarding the expedite request please refer to our previous article:
You can submit expedite requests by calling USCIS or using the online chat tool, Emma. However, since writing this article USCIS has become a lot stricter when applying the expedite criteria and has been rejecting expedite requests out of hand, without even first giving the applicant the opportunity to submit documentation in support. It’s worth bearing in mind that the majority of expedite requests for a work authorization are submitted under the severe financial loss category. The problem is that everyone who doesn’t receive their EAD on time is suffering the same type of hardship. This means you must make your case stand out and you also must be able to quantify the loss. Stating that you will suffer financial loss by itself is not sufficient. Quantify the loss and make sure you can back this up with documentation.
Another way to potentially expedite the EAD is to submit a request to expedite the travel document (Advance Parole) under the urgent humanitarian criteria. For example, if you have an urgent need to travel to visit a sick relative you can expedite the travel document, which is likely to have a greater chance of success. Because the EAD and travel document are issued as a combination card, when USCIS expedites and approves the request for the travel document they also approve the EAD.
If you have tried expediting your case and this has been denied you are probably wondering what other options, there are. Filing multiple expedite requests is not recommended as the more times USCIS pulls your file to consider the expedite request, it can have the opposite effect and delay the adjudication of your application.
Other options to consider are:
- Filing a congressional inquiry to request assistance with your case from your local congressman/ congresswoman
- Filing a request with the Ombudsman if your case is outside of normal processing times.
First, you need to figure out who your local congressman/ congresswoman is. Once you determine this you can locate their website and there will usually be an option to submit a request to obtain assistance with government agencies. Whilst Attorneys cannot submit Congressional requests directly, it is recommended to work with an experienced Attorney to ensure that you present the best case possible and also submit relevant supporting documentation. Again, you need to make sure that your case stands out from the pack as many applicants are turning to their congressman for assistance. The congressman/ congresswoman will have a direct line to USCIS and can advocate on your behalf.
For cases outside of normal processing times, you can submit a case assistance request to the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman). The CIS Ombudsman assists individuals and employers in resolving case processing problems at USCIS. They will typically only get involved in cases that are outside of normal processing times.
Bear in mind that there are no guarantees with any of the above options. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. That is unfortunately the nature of immigration. However, before submitting any type of request make sure you have a good reason and plenty of documentation to back it up. Without this, your case is doomed to fail from the start. If you are feeling frustrated with your case, please contact PLG Partner Chris Prescott at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.