H-4, L-2 EAD backlogs may take years to clear out

A new backlog was created due to delayed administrative processing during the pandemic.

If the Green Card backlog that Indian nationals face in the United States wasn’t enough, the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with former President Donald Trump’s crackdown on several visa categories, has created another unique backlog — one that is forcing thousands out of their livelihood and is making it impossible for many professionals to join jobs they are eligible for.

Take the case of Priyanka Jain, who arrived in the United States on an L-2 visa in September last year. She applied for an employment authorization document (EAD), or a work permit which is yet to arrive. “I have a potential job, but they are losing patience and need someone to join ASAP,” she said. “I might lose this opportunity as my EAD hasn’t arrived yet and there is no indication on how long it will possibly take. It’s frustrating mainly because there’s nothing I can do and this wait seems endless.”

READ: The forgotten workers: Why is no one talking about L-2 visa, EAD delays? L-2 holders are suffering as much as H-4 holders (February 23, 2021)

Jain’s case reveals that it is not just those who are seeking extensions of their existing work permits that are suffering, but those who arrived hoping to join the workforce are also seeing their plans fall apart.

Attorneys warn that it may be months, even up to a year, for the massive backlog to be cleared. Many of those who are riding on this boat of uncertainty, however, have solutions ready. A large number of H-4 EAD extension seekers are calling for doing away with the biometrics requirement, introduced by the Trump administration.

“If the biometrics are removed the extensions can be processed in time,” said Seema Shah, a Seattle resident who is in the line for EAD extension. “Also it is not clear as to why the biometrics are required for the dependents, especially when the biometrics are already collected when we get the visa in India and also every time we enter the United States.”

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

Those awaiting work permits undergo another hardship on the personal front. Many are waiting for their visa extensions so that they can visit their home country India. In case of an emergency, it becomes a catch-22 situation for many.

Some legal experts have also pointed that work-based visa holders are offered an extension of up to 180 or 240 days, depending on the visa type while their extensions are in process. Given the pandemic and backlogs, they are calling for extending the same provision for dependent work permit holders as well.


DHS to introduce biometric system to cut visa overstays (May 26, 2017)

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

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