Dallas resident Sneha Amarapuram is among thousands of L-2 visa holders who lost their jobs due to EAD extension delays.
With countless immigration discussion forums and news stories focusing on delays faced by H-4 EAD holders, a large section of L-2 visa holders facing exactly the same issues feel sidelined. Even though the Biden administration seems to be working toward immigration reforms that may be beneficial to work-based visa holders, a large section of those on dependent visas of these primary visa holders continue to feel neglected.
Currently, the USCIS is taking up to 24 months to process the visas of many H-4 visa holders who have applied for EAD extensions.
L-2 visa holders, mostly the spouses of those who are on L-1 visas in the US, say they are facing the exact same issue and losing jobs every day. While the predicament of H-4 visa holders has been highlighted, the plight of L-2 visa holders has not been, they say.
Dallas, Texas-based Sneha Amarapuram, who worked with IT firm Cisco, had to give up her job last year because her L-2 EAD extension did not come in time. Unemployed for more than four months now, she continues to await her extension and has shared her story with the American Bazaar. “I am non-immigrant from India, who came to the US last year in February 2020,” she said. “I arrived on a L-2 visa as my husband was already working here on a L-1 visa.”
Amarapuram, who graduated with a degree in computer science from Vellore Institute of Technology, one of the premium institutes in India, worked for Cisco in Bangalore as a network engineer prior to arriving in the United States.
Amarapuram said one of the main reasons she decided to leave her job in India and come to the US was that she was coming on L-2 visa and knew that she wouldn’t have to put her career on hold, like H-4 visa holders.
“I knew that I will not need to compromise on my career as L-1 dependents are allowed to work,” she said. “Once in the US, I got a job here with great difficulty after trying for five months. But in September, last year I was hired by Cisco.”
However, Amarapuram was unlucky as her job was cut short. “My husbands’ L1 visa was given till October 2020 and hence my L-2 visa as well as the EAD was issued until October 2020,” she said. “We have already filed for my L-2 visa and L-2 EAD extensions along with my husbands’ L-1 extension in July 2020, ninety days prior to the expiration. We received approval for my husbands’ L-1 visa extension in September after we opted for premium processing. However, I am still awaiting my L-2 visa and EAD extension which expired on October 12, 2020.”
Since USCIS does not offer premium processing for dependent visas, the applicants have no choice but to wait.
Amarapuram said “There is a bill, HR 8337, which asks for providing premium processing for L2, H4 and EAD and it was signed by the President on October 1, 2020. But it is not implemented by USCIS as yet.”
The IT professional said she had no choice but to give up her job. “It has been more than 4 months since I am out of my job and even though, I have received multiple offers from various employers, I am not able to work as I don’t have a valid EAD,” she said.
In the past seven months, she has tried to contact multiple lawmakers for help. “I tried to reach out to senators, [members of the] House of Representatives but there has been no positive response from USCIS.”
Amarapuram blamed USCIS delays for the job loss. “USCIS does not allow one to file the extension before 6 months of expiration, but their own processing time is more than 10 months,” she said. “This forces any one filing for an extension to lose their job.”
In December, a group of 60 members of Congress urged then-President-elect Joe Biden to extend the validity of work permits of H4 visa holders.
The plea was made in a letter signed, among others, by all four Indian American members of Congress — Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jayapal.
Amarapuram said the letter failed to mention L-2 visa holders. “It is unfortunate that only H-4 is highlighted in the letter to the President when L2 visa holders are also facing the same issue,” she said.
Many L-2 visa holders like Amarapuram are demanding that the biometrics requirement be removed so that extensions can be processed in time, which would in turn boost the US economy especially at a time like this.
Houston law firm sues USCIS over delay in H4 extension, H4 EAD (June 10, 2019)