Relief may be too little, too late as USCIS is still processing January 2021 cases.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of H-4 and L-2 visa holders, lost their jobs, as they experienced long delays in renewing work permits for spouses of foreign workers on H-1B and L-1 non-immigrant work visas.
After months of campaigning, advocating, writing to the senators and many silent marches later, looks like the H-4 and L-2 visa community, largely made up of Indians, finally may have got what they were wishing for.
The latest in the form of good news coming from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is that beginning May 17, the agency will be suspending biometrics for all H-4 and L-2 applications.
The decision was announced in a court filing in a class action suit in Seattle with plaintiffs claiming that long delays by the agency in issuing work permits are illegal.
While the news may seem like a solution to help those experiencing work permit renewal delays, many applicants say that it may be too little, too late as USCIS is currently processing EAD approvals for January 2021 cases.
Seattle based Khili Sharma, who has been waiting for her EAD for a year echoes the sentiment. She says, “Not to sound negative, but the damage has already been done.”
“I waited for a year for my biometrics and I’m still waiting for my approval. Approvals are happening for people with Jan 2021 Received Date (RD) and I am waiting since May 2020. It’s a good news but I’m sorry I’m exhausted.”
Immigration attorneys agree that while it may be the first step, it needs to be followed up with speeding up the process for thousands who have been waiting for months, even after submitting biometrics for the application.
Charleston, South Carolina based, immigration attorney Jonathan Wasden of Wasden Banias Law Firm, who were among the lawyers representing the plaintiffs says, “This is a necessary first step to restoring sanity to H-4EAD and L-2 adjudication times.”
“That said, it is only the first step. We will continue to fight for reasonable processing times that will end gaps in work authorization.”
While many welcomed the news, like Georgia, Atlanta based Rashi Bhan who said, “The decision will definitely help so many people stuck due to unnecessary delay.”
But immigration attorney Benjamin Hamilton wonders if the decision would actually help the situation on the ground with delays already created.
“Processing of H-4EADs is unlikely to speed up anytime soon. USCIS has a limited budget which is largely fee based,” he told the American Bazaar.
“This means it is unlikely that the agency will increase its capacity unless congress appropriates funds or the agency dramatically increases filing fees,” he said.
“The agency’s current and most common response to demand spikes is to shift the case between service centers to balance out work loads. This tends to bring down processing time until the next spike.”
On the possible solutions Hamilton says, “The agency should add H-4 and L-2EAD to the list of EAD categories eligible for an automatic 180 day extension.”
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)