USCIS suspends biometric requirement for H4 EAD renewal

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.

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

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.”

READ: H-4 EAD rally planned in Rocky Hill, CT, at 4 pm, Saturday, March 27 (March 27, 2021)

“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.

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

“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.”


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