Navigating EAD Renewals Amid Ongoing Delays: Key Updates and Strategies 

In light of ongoing processing delays, it is crucial not to delay your Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) renewal. Effective October 26, 2023, USCIS will grant automatic extensions of only 180 days for qualifying EAD renewal applications submitted after this date. Unfortunately, processing times at some service centers still exceed this window due to persistent challenges, including chronic understaffing and COVID-19 backlog. 

While USCIS has made efforts to improve processing in 2023, it has not fully addressed the demand in certain areas. To address these concerns, USCIS has introduced new policies to mitigate gaps in work authorization for various statuses: 

Premium Processing For Students and Exchange Visitors:

USCIS now allows Premium Processing for EAD renewal applications of F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1, and J-2 visa holders. This expedited option, available for an additional fee of $2,500, guarantees adjudication within 30 business days, with EADs generally arriving within two weeks of approval. 

Extended Validity Period For Some New EADs:

Some EAD categories now have a validity period of up to 5 years. This change aims to reduce the influx of renewal applications, thereby easing the workload on USCIS staff and reducing processing times. It’s important to note that this extended validity only applies to new EADs and does not extend the validity of current expiring EADs or EADs that have already expired. 

All EAD holders applying for an extension after October 26, 2023 will lose the opportunity to receive the 540-day automatic extension introduced during the COVID-19 National Emergency. While EAD renewal applications cannot be submitted earlier than 180 days before the current document’s expiration, extended processing times could result in challenges when employers verify work authorization as required for the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification. 

If an employee cannot provide acceptable documentation for Form I-9 verification, employers may not legally allow them to work. To prepare for potential employment gaps, non-citizen workers with EADs should consider the following: 

Asylees and Refugees:

Workers in this category may provide documentation other than an EAD to prove their work authorization, such as an I-94 indicating their status as Asylee or Refugee, or an unrestricted social security card. 

Students and Exchange Visitors:

Eligible workers in this category should renew their EAD as soon as possible and consider opting for premium processing if necessary. 

Spouses of E, L, and H Visa Holders (E-1S, E-2S, E-3S, L-2S, and H-4 statuses):

Workers in this category may be able to provide alternative documentation, like a valid I-94 extending beyond their EAD expiration date. While H-4 EAD applications are not eligible for standalone premium processing, concurrent filing with an H-1B (I-129) extension application can expedite the process. 

Other Statuses:

Workers in different statuses, such as pending adjustment of status (I-485) applications, pending asylum applications, Section 210 legalization (I-700), Section 245A (I-687), and VAWA self-petitioners, should not delay renewals. To maximize processing time, apply for renewals 180 days before the original EAD expires. 

In conclusion, staying proactive with EAD renewal applications is essential to help ensure uninterrupted work authorization and avoid employment gaps.