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In the past year, the processing times for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) have become quite long. A recent stakeholder call with the Ombudsman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sheds some light on how bad the situation has become.
When our clients apply for adjustment of status, we simultaneously apply for a temporary EAD. The temporary EAD gives our client the ability to work while the green card case is processed.
Using data collected in November 2017, USCIS reports that there are 625,000 EAD cases backlogged in the system. Of those, approximately half are for applicants with adjustment of status cases. The actual number currently backlogged is probably even higher at this point.
Different EAD applications are getting processed at different speeds. (It is not clear what would govern whether a particular case is processed fast are slow). USCIS reports the following breakdown:
- Under 75 days – 43%.
- 76-90 days – 5%.
- 90-120 days – 10%.
- 121-160 days – 12%.
- 160-180 days – 5%.
- Over 180 days – 24%.
There is thus something of an inverted bell curve. with these processing times. Roughly half of EADs are getting approved within three months, which is roughly the average in recent years. But another quarter of applications are taking at least six months or longer to get approved.
USCIS reports that the online case status for an EAD application should be updated the same day that an approval issues. Once the application is approved, there is a 48-hour hold before USCIS will begin producing the physical EAD card that is shipped to the applicant. Production is finalized within 96 hours. That means that the card should go out to the applicant within 6 business days of when a case is shown as approved via the online case system.
What can you do if your EAD application is taking too long?
USCIS will not accept a case status complaint until an EAD application (Form I-765) has been pending for over 75 days. After that, you can submit a status request by calling USCIS at 1 (800) 375-5283. USCIS reports that they are designing a new website, for release soon, for submitting those requests.
If you have an offer of employment you may also be able to request an emergency authorization at a local USCIS office. Note that this is a discretionary process, meaning that USCIS is not required to grant such requests. To make such a request you would schedule an appointment at your local office via InfoPass. Applicants should bring the receipt notice for their Form I-765 and – if applicable – Form I-485 application. They should also bring proof that they have a time-sensitive offer of employment that they wish to accept. Again, note that the USCIS officer will have complete discretion as to whether to approve such a request.