Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.
One of our employees is on an H-4 visa and has an Employment Authorization Document. It’s been five months since he filed to renew his EAD, which will expire next month. Is there any way to expedite this process? Does he have to stop working if he doesn’t receive his new EAD card before his old one expires?
Because it’s taking so long to get EAD cards, we’re worried about another of our employees, who has an L-2 visa with an EAD scheduled to expire early next year.
In addition, the H-4 visa employee wants to visit his family in India because it’s been more than three years since he last went. Will he and his family be able to return to the U.S. after four weeks?
— Mindful Manager
Thanks for reaching out to me with all your questions about Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), otherwise known as work permits. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has introduced a few changes to reduce case backlogs and improve the quality of service, and one area it has been focusing on is lowering the processing times for EADs and extending their validity to avoid employment disruptions.
For the past couple of years, USCIS has been backlogged due to the pandemic, funding issues, and reliance on paper-based processing for most immigration benefits. Right now, USCIS is taking anywhere from five months to 9.5 months to process an H-4 EAD application or extension, depending on the USCIS service center handling the request.
While USCIS is working to expand premium processing to additional immigration forms, it remains unavailable for Form I-765, which is used to apply for and renew work authorization. With premium processing, USCIS guarantees to process an application within 15 days for a fee.
However, there’s good news for you and your employees!
Work permits for H-4 visa holders
H-4 visa holders, who are the spouses of H-1B visa holders, were offered some relief this year in the EAD process.
In May, USCIS issued a temporary rule designed to reduce EAD backlogs as well as the stress on individuals holding H-4 visas and their employers. These visa holders can have their EADs extended for up to 540 days if the individual had a renewal application pending with USCIS on or after May 4 2022, or had filed a renewal application on or after that date.