Employers and noncitizen workers in Silicon Valley have just gotten some good news from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Earlier in May, USCIS announced a huge, temporary increase in the automatic extension of employment authorization and their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for certain individuals who have applied for renewal. Instead of getting an extra 180 days on their EADs, workers will now get up to 540 days’ extension while their case is pending.
USCIS issued this temporary change for one reason: backlog. The agency has struggled with processing renewal applications in a timely manner for years. But the COVID-19 pandemic made things worse. The agency went through a hiring freeze and furlough threat that shrank its workforce and caused it to fall even further behind. In 2021, there was a surge in initial and renewal EAD filings, further adding to the problem.
In its Temporary Final Rule, USCIS states that the extension only applies to those who were already eligible for an automatic extension of their employment privileges and that it only applies to new initial/renewal applications as of May 4. It appears the agency hopes adding nearly an entire extra year on future applications will give it time to work through the current backlog. Meanwhile, eligible noncitizens and their employers can continue without worrying about possible disruption in status until November 2023 at the earliest.
On Oct. 27, 2023, the rule will revert to the usual 180-day extension maximum.