In a significant development, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced an extension of the validity period for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) to a maximum of five years.
This update, detailed in the USCIS Policy Manual, applies to both initial and renewal EADs and is targeted at specific noncitizen categories who are employment authorized incident to their status or circumstance. The USCIS aims to streamline processes and reduce the associated processing times and backlogs with this move.
The new policy applies to noncitizens who are employment authorized incident to status or circumstance, as well as those who must apply for employment authorization. Some examples of noncitizens who are eligible for the new policy include:
- Parolees as refugees
- Recipients of withholding of removal
- Applicants for asylum or withholding of removal
- Applicants for adjustment of status under INA 245
- Applicants for suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal
- Certain Afghan and Ukrainian parolees
Beneficiaries of the Extended Validity Period
Under this new guidance, certain noncitizens with specific immigration statuses will benefit from the extended EAD validity period. These include individuals who have been admitted as refugees, those paroled as refugees, individuals granted asylum, and recipients of withholding of removal.
Additionally, applicants for asylum or withholding of removal, individuals seeking adjustment of status under INA 245, and those in the process of suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal will also receive EADs with a maximum validity period of five years.
Enhanced Clarity on Employment Authorization
The USCIS’s updated guidance also offers clarity on which noncitizen categories are automatically authorized to work, a status referred to as being employment authorized incident to status or circumstance.
It also provides comprehensive information on presenting a Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, as an acceptable employment authorization document under List C of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.
It is important to note that the Form I-94 must be accompanied by identity documentation to establish eligibility for employment authorization.
Furthermore, the USCIS guidance includes a specific clarification pertaining to Afghan and Ukrainian parolees, affirming their employment authorization incident to parole.
Streamlining Administrative Processes
The USCIS’s decision to extend the maximum validity period of EADs to five years is primarily aimed at reducing the volume of new Forms I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, submitted for EAD renewal over the coming years.
This strategic move is expected to contribute significantly to the agency’s ongoing efforts to minimize processing times and alleviate backlogs in immigration-related applications.
However, it is crucial to understand that an individual’s continued employment authorization remains contingent upon their underlying immigration status, individual circumstances, and the category under which they filed their EAD application.
For instance, if an individual initially received an EAD under the (c)(9) category based on a pending adjustment of status application with a five-year validity period, and subsequently, their adjustment application is denied, their ancillary employment authorization may be terminated before the expiration date stated on their EAD.
This USCIS policy update reflects the agency’s commitment to improving efficiency and providing clarity in immigration processes while aligning with the evolving needs and circumstances of noncitizens in the United States.