On November 18, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published long-awaited regulations regarding employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant visa programs. But, even if you are applying for a green card based on your marriage, or you are in removal proceedings applying for relief from an Immigration Judge, the new rules contain some important provisions that may very well apply to you.
First, the DHS is eliminating a regulation required the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process applications for employment authorization within 90 days of filing. Under the current rules, if applications are not processed within 90 days, the DHS must issue interim (or temporary) employment authorization to the applicant. In practice, DHS stopped issuing interim employment authorization many years ago due to concerns about fraud and security. The new rule will officially eliminate the 90 day processing requirement and interim employment authorization documents.
This may seem like bad news for individuals who face the loss of their jobs if they are unable to get their employment authorization documents renewed in a timely manner. However, a second provision in the new regulations may provide some relief.
The new rules will allow for an automatic extension of employment authorization up to 180 days. The automatic extension will be granted if an applicant files his or her renewal application before the current employment authorization document expires. (This does not apply to applicants for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) who may get the automatic extension as long as they submit their employment authorization applications within the TPS re-registration period).
The automatic extension provisions apply to 15 different employment authorization categories, including refugees and asylees, applicants for asylum, applicants for adjustment of status (“green cards”), and applicants for cancellation of removal.
Finally, the new rules change the policy of when an application for renewal of employment authorization may be filed with the USCIS. Currently USCIS will accept applications filed 120 days before the expiration of the employment authorization document. Under the new rule, USCIS may accept renewal applications up to 180 days before the expiration of the current employment authorization documents. The exact filing period will be determined by “current filing conditions” and agency resources. USCIS will update their website to inform the public of the exact filing period.