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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Friday, April 05, 2024

Biden extends some immigrant work permits, potentially saving thousands of jobs

The Biden administration on Thursday is announcing an extension of work permits for certain categories of immigrants, potentially preventing hundreds of thousands of people from losing their jobs overnight. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is publishing a temporary final rule in the Federal Register to automatically extend the validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) from 180 to 540 days. That means eligible immigrants whose EADs have expired since Oct. 27 will remain eligible to work for at least another 360 days, while their EAD renewals are processed. “Over the last year, the USCIS workforce reduced processing times for most EAD categories, supporting an overall goal to improve work access to eligible individuals,” USCIS Director Ur Jaddou said. “However, we also received a record number of employment authorization applications, impacting our renewal mechanisms.” “Temporarily lengthening the existing automatic extension up to 540 days will avoid lapses in employment authorizations,” Jaddou added. “At the same time, this rule provides DHS with an additional window to consider long-term solutions by soliciting public comments, and identifying new strategies to ensure those noncitizens eligible for employment authorization can maintain that benefit.” The two largest groups benefited by the change will be asylum-seekers and foreign nationals who are in the process of changing their status to permanent residency. In all, up to 800,000 immigrants were at risk of losing their work permits without the new rule, according to a USCIS spokesperson. USCIS will also benefit from the change: It has been aggressively rebuilding its processing capacity after the Trump administration refocused the agency away from processing applications, degrading its ability to deliver quick decisions. That reconstruction also came as asylum applications ballooned, adding to the agency’s historic backlog, though USCIS managed in fiscal 2023 to reduce that backlog for the first time in a decade. Advocates, mayors and business leaders were growing uneasy with an April 24 deadline when some workers would have started to lose their authorization. It’s the second time the Biden administration has announced an extension to 540 days. The first extension, announced in 2022, had a sunset on Oct. 27, 2023, when automatic extensions reverted to 180 days. All categories of immigrants covered by the 2022 extension will be covered by the new one as well. The implementation of 540-day extensions now also means the problem is unlikely to reoccur. Since September, USCIS has been granting five-year EADs to eligible immigrants, rather than the two-year EADs that were standard before. That gives USCIS a bigger cushion to prepare for any future potential mass expiration of EADs. “We’re working really hard as an agency and have made really good progress to speed up our processing and keep pace with what has been a very large rise in the number of applications we’re receiving for all different kinds of things, but in particular, employment authorization documents,” a USCIS spokesperson told The Hill. “We just want to make sure that we maintain our commitment not only to reducing those processing times, but preventing people’s work authorization from expiring through no fault of their own,” they added. Since the end of the 2022 extension, administration officials were flooded with letters from members of Congress, mayors, advocacy groups, and the business community asking to reinstate the 540-day extensions. When the 2022 extension was announced, a USCIS spokesperson told The Hill, some EADs had already expired, causing immigrants to lose their jobs and disruptions in business operations. This time around, the new rule will be effective April 8, a few weeks short of the 180-day mark for EADs that expired after the October sunset. Active extensions granted for 180 days will retroactively convert to 540-day extensions. The longer extensions have been eagerly awaited by groups ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to individual asylum-seekers. Linda C., an asylum-seeker from Zimbabwe and member of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, told The Hill in an email that the new rule is a “huge relief.” “I have been so worried about losing my job I had managed to successfully secure in order to survive and make ends meet. I am so grateful that the government extended work permits so we can continue to survive and not have the stress and pressure of losing our jobs as that is very worrisome,” she said. For asylum-seekers, losing an EAD can mean the difference between moving into their own housing and being forced into city shelters. “Cities and counties have made it clear that asylum seekers and immigrants need work permits, and we are frustrated that our communities’ immigrants may soon lose their work authorization due to processing delays and the federal government’s inaction,” read a February letter from Cities for Action signed by 43 mayors. “As a result, cities and counties will soon face even greater challenges if they lose their jobs, driver’s licenses, and access to health care and housing. Thus, we ask that you take our needs into account and ensure that this does not occur.” The pressure was also grinding on the business community, which faced the added costs of removing people from payrolls and other disruptions. “It gives everybody – it gives the agency breathing space. And it really is something that — it’s a benefit to companies but it’s a relief for them too, because they know that they were going to go through those headaches again,” said Jon Baselice, vice president of immigration policy at the Chamber of Commerce. “I say headache, but there’s a cost to all of these problems. It’s not just a matter of how you take people off payroll. You’re now in a situation where, like, you had a project team of 10 people and maybe now it’s down to five or even three.” The uncertainty of continued work authorization was concerning to a wide array of businesses, from those hiring newly arrived asylum-seekers with little work experience to large corporations that employ subject-matter experts from all over the world. The two groups that will most benefit from the rule — asylum-seekers and immigrants pending adjustment of status — exemplify that range. In a political climate where legislative movement on immigration is gridlocked, many stakeholders are welcoming the change. “For this moment in time, knowing what we’re dealing with, the business community, and I imagine many others, but I don’t want to speak for them — we’re thankful that this policy is being reimplemented,” said Baselice. TAGS JOE BIDEN For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

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