Those awaiting H-4 EAD disappointed that Biden has not addressed work permit delays


In December, 60 members of Congress had sent a letter to Biden urging him to extend H-4 EAD.

In December last year, 32-year-old, Pasadena, California, resident Anika K. (last name withheld on request) was hopeful about the future of her work in the United States. “I had been awaiting my H-4 work authorization for more than four months,” she said.

“Just a few months before my expiration date was to arrive, I heard that Congresswoman Bonnie (Watson Coleman) had sent a letter supported by [dozens of] members of Congress asking for extension of H-4 work authorization,” she said. “With President [Joe] Biden, set to take charge in January, I was hopeful that things would move swiftly and I would be able to hold on to my job.”

However, now three weeks into the Biden administration, her work permit has still not arrived. Last week, she was forced to stop working after her existing EAD expired.

H4 visa holders like Anika appreciated the fact that Biden quickly moved to rescind the rule challenging the H-4 work permit after he assumed office last month.

“That sounded like a huge step,” said Anika. “Imagine, those of us who had spent the last four years see-sawing between hope and despair about our career, in one ruling, it was clear that we could legally [work again].”

READ: Thank you, President Biden for saving H4-EAD, but what about visa extension backlogs? (January 28, 2021)

But the Indian national said she hoped that the H-4 EAD delays would be the next agenda. Now she is disappointed that “even though hundreds of EAD holders keep losing their jobs, the administration is yet to take note of us.”

In her December 16 letter, Rep. Coleman and 59 other members of U.S. House of Representatives, urged the then President-elect Joe Biden to unilaterally extend the expiration work authorization documents for H-4 visa holders.

It pointed out that changes made by Trump administration had led to months-long delays in obtaining EAD, leading to loss of jobs for many women on H4 visas.

“Unfortunately, these women are losing and will continue to lose their jobs until this is put right, disrupting the lives of their families and the functioning of employers in our districts,” the letter stated. “We respectfully request the Department of Homeland Security publish a Federal Register notice on day one of your administration that would extend the validity period of all expired H-4EADs.”

In his first few weeks at the Oval Office, Biden has delivered on many promises on the immigration front. However, many H4 holders are still waiting for their working permits.

READ: A timeline and history of H-4 EAD (January 27, 2021)

Just last week, SaveH4EAD, a forum formed in 2018 by a group of individuals trying to save H4 work permits, highlighted the issue.

It acknowledged that the president has signed several executive orders to streamline the legal immigration system and the delay on H4 EAD may because of arbitrariness of the process. “We strongly believe that the H-4EAD delays are due to arbitrary, unreasonable policies such as requiring biometric for long term visa holders.” It added, “Our current focus is to get immediate relief for thousands of skilled legal immigrants (mostly women) who are being artificially pushed out of their livelihoods due to bureaucratic delays and bad policy regulations.”

During the Trump administration, the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) saw the highest ever backlog of cases in nearly two decades. Those in the line for visa extensions reported long delays in biometric appointments, leading to the belief that policy changes such as not including dependents on visas for premium processing have led to these inordinate delays.

H4 visa: a primer

When Neha Mathur, an IT professional in Silicon Valley, applied for an H-4EAD extension in March last year, she didn’t foresee that it would take her eight months to get a biometric appointment. She had to request counselors and HR in her office to not fill up her position and wait till she gets her work permit. “It is a nightmare and so much of time and energy is wasted requesting people to understand your situation. Most Americans working in my office weren’t even aware that a visa wait can cost you your job.”

A biometric requirement was added for H-4 and L-2 EAD extensions in March 2019, perhaps as a step to make it tougher for applicants, as the Trump administration wanted to rescind the H-4 work permits. While EADs are valid for anywhere from one to three years. Every H-4 visa holder has to get it renewed approximately every two years. This is perhaps the first time that the work permit delays are reaching between 12-24 months, leading to deep anxiety and uncertainly among families of the H4 visa holders.

READ MORE:

DC judge seeks status report on work permits for H-1B spouses (February 10, 2021)

Workers union appeals against DC court ruling favoring OPT (February 9, 2021)

Breaking: Biden administration withdraws Trump’s move to rescind H4 EAD regulation (January 26, 2021)

60 lawmakers urge Biden to renew H4 spouses’ work permits (December 23, 2020)

Indian woman sues USCIS for work permit delays (July 24, 2020)

DHS tells federal court that H4 EAD termination rule is still being reviewed by OMB (September 10, 2019)

Biometrics requirement lengthens H4 EAD processing time considerably (August 12, 2019)

New USCIS biometric requirement likely to delay H4 approvals (July 2, 2019)

USCIS says rule-making process to terminate H4 EAD not complete yet: report (June 18, 2019)

Houston law firm sues USCIS over delay in H4 extension, H4 EAD (June 10, 2019)

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