Delay in getting renewed EAD cost spouse of Indian H-1B worker her job.
An Indian couple waiting in a years-long backlog for a green card to become available has initiated a lawsuit against US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) over delays in sending approved printed work permits.
Filed in Ohio federal court on Wednesday, the lawsuit on behalf of Ranjitha Subramanya, claims that USCIS is arbitrarily refusing to print work permit cards after approving them, leaving visa-holders unable to show their US employers that they are authorized to work in the US.
This delay in receiving their printed work permit cards is threatening the jobs of thousands of foreign workers with approval to work, the proposed class action lawsuit alleged, Law360 reported.
Subramanya, an Indian citizen came to the US on an H-1B specialty occupation visa to work at Nationwide Insurance.
She later changed her status to an H-4 visa, reserved for spouses of H-1B holders, through her husband’s H-1B visa, which is valid through June 2023, according to the lawsuit.
According to her lawyer, Robert H. Cohen of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, her husband, also an Indian citizen, has an approved green card petition, but the couple is stuck in a green card backlog.
Subramanya applied to extend her H-4 work permit in December, and USCIS approved the request in April. Typically, the printed card is issued within a few days of the approval, the suit says.
However, despite multiple calls and requests to the agency, Subramanya still didn’t have her printed card by June, when her previous work permit expired.
She was forced to leave her job then, and her employer has told her that she will be terminated permanently if she does not have her work permit by August.
Cohen told Law360 that Wednesday’s lawsuit was “born out of extreme frustration.”
Since announcing his plans, he said he has heard from other immigration attorneys across the US who have reported experiencing long delays to receive work permit cards for green card and asylum applicants as well.
“We’ve made every effort that we could, but USCIS is not a user-friendly agency anymore,” Cohen was quoted as saying. “We had just reached the end of what we could do short of filing a lawsuit.”
Subramanya is represented by Robert H. Cohen, Caroline H. Gentry and David P. Shouvlin of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP.
The suit also argues that USCIS is depriving foreign workers of the work permits they are legally owed in violation of their constitutional rights, and alleges that the agency is sitting on a backlog of at least 75,000 unprinted employment authorization documents, or EADs.
“By delaying or refusing to provide EADs to plaintiffs and class members, defendants have abused their power in an egregious and outrageous manner, without any reasonable justification in the service of a legitimate governmental objective, and with either an intention to harm plaintiff and class members or deliberate indifference,” the complaint says.
The ombudsman for the agency confirmed in an alert on Wednesday that USCIS had “reduced its capacity to print secure documents,” such as work permits and permanent residency cards, after ending its contract with a third-party company that previously printed the cards.
According to the alert, USCIS had planned to hire federal employees to take over the printing, but that effort has stalled due to the agency’s projected financial troubles due to covid-19 induced closures.
USCIS “expects these backlogs will continue for the foreseeable future,” the alert says.
The agency has sought a $1.2 billion bailout from the US Congress and proposed a 10% visa fee surcharge to repay it. But unless the divided Congress acts before Aug 3, USCIS has warned it may need to furlough over 13,000 staff members further delaying H-1B processing, green card renewals, and work permits.
The current production backlog is roughly 115,000 green cards and employment authorization documents, CNN reported citing a USCIS spokesperson, with the oldest pending card order in the queue from July 6.