With the introduction of biometrics in March this year, H4 EAD applicants are no longer getting their applications processed under premium processing.
Sreelatha T., 32, has been waiting for her H4 EAD approval for close to two months now. It may not seem like a long wait, but Sreelatha’s spouse had applied for his H1-B extension under premium processing, hoping for an early approval for him, as well as his dependent spouse.
The couple went the premium processing route because they thought it would enable them to plan their financials better as Sreelatha had a new job offer in hand. With the wait getting longer, she is now restless and apprehensive about the employer finding someone else for the position because of the long wait, which will result in her losing out on an offer that she had got after an intensive job hunt.
While friends and relatives have suggested everything from speaking to a local congressman to calling the USCIS, the couple hasn’t done that so far.
Sreelatha’s situation is not unique. While H4 EAD has remained in news for various reasons, including for its possible termination, what is new is the recent inexplicable delays in H4 EAD approvals.
Now, even people who may have paid a handsome fee to get their applications processed faster are forced to wait with no clear answer on the time period.
Ever since the introduction of I-539 form that requires biometrics for H4 visa holders, there has been a significant change in the processing time for H4 visa as well as Change of Status applications, even if they are filed in the premium processing category, according to many attorneys.
While an early decision makes it easier for the applicant, what many who opt for premium processing for H1-B may not know is that while USCIS would take 15 days to reach a decision for H-1B, legally the agency is not required to also process H4 and H4 EAD in premium.
Some may wonder why there is this deliberate delay now. The answer is the new biometrics requirement, which that has been added to the process. As the USCIS was not obliged to follow the premium process for H4, it is no longer doing it.
But what makes matters worse is that the applicants have nowhere to turn to and no direct answers on how long it may take for their application to process eventually.
Houston immigration lawyer Emily Neumann, during her live streaming of immigration news last week, described the current state of H4 EAD as one of a debacle under the Trump administration. Talking about the chaos that people are experiences, Neumann said, “We have been seeing very long processing times, ever since the biometrics notice requirement came out.”
She explained why, ever since the finger printing requirement was made mandatory, the H-4 EAD processing has not been coming along with premium H-1B application option. “Up until March of this year, when we were filing H-1B extension and with it H-4 and H-4 EAD altogether in premium processing,” Neumann said. “So when the H1B got approved, H-4 and H4-EAD got approved along with it. But all of a sudden, in March, we began seeing a delay in H-4 and EAD approval after the H-1 was approved.”
Neumann explained why the delay is unfair for the applicants. “The authorities also maintained that they will be processing the H-4 applications on a priority basis after the biometrics if it was filed with an H-1B under premium processing,” she said. “And that just didn’t ever happen.”
The new process has in a way separated the H-1B application from the H-4 petition. The problem arises because there is no one an applicant could contact for an update. “You can’t contact the premium process unit to find out the cause of delay or when it might be approved,” Neumann said. “So, you are just stuck with the regular processing time. We have tried service request, we have tried the congressional enquiries, the ombudsman office, ewe have tried to expedite requests and nothing. So, the best thing we have found is to file a lawsuit on behalf of groups of H-4 applicants that are waiting for at least 30 days after they filed the H-4 and EAD.”
Lawyers are now planning approach the courts to force the USCIS to reach a decision on the applications faster. While courts have intervened in favor of their clients on many occasions in recent times, many applicants are still choosing not to take the lawsuit route for the fear of getting RFEs, even though attorneys maintain that an applicant can rightfully file a lawsuit.
It takes anywhere from two months to four months to get H-4 and H4 EAD at the moment.
End of the road for H-4 EAD program? (April 24, 2018)
Trump administration may soon end H-4 Visa Rule: report (February 1, 2018)
Tech industry urges USCIS not to cancel H-4 spouses’ work permits (January 19, 2018)
Trump to end H-4 EAD program for spouses of H-1B workers (December 15, 2017)
Trump administration asks for more time on H4 work authorization (April 4, 2017)
H4 visa-holders’ work authorization is under review: report (February 7, 2017)
H4 visa holders start to get EAD work permits from USCIS (June 29, 2015)
No work permits for H4 visa holders: lawsuit filed by Save Jobs USA (April 27, 2015)
458,177 H4 visas issued in 6 years between 2008-2013 (February 26, 2015)
COLUMN: EAD cards for H4 visa holders: USCIS needs to give it to all of them(February 24, 2015)
EAD cards for H4 visa holders: green cards better solution, says IEEE-USA (February 24, 2015)
H4 visa holders can apply for EAD cards beginning May 26, 2015 (February 24, 2015)
EAD cards to H4 visa holders: Immigration Voice lauds Barack Obama February 24, 2015
H4 visa: a primer (December 9, 2014)
Final rule on work permits for H4 visa holders by December 2014-January 2015(November 23, 2014)
Indian women on H4 visas eager to get back to work (May 8, 2014)
Many H4 visa holders will get work permits this year (May 7, 2014)
For H4 visa holders from India, the X visa all-important (May 26, 2013)
BLOG: The H4 visa conundrum (April 21, 2013)