The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that beginning May 4, 2022, the automatic extension period for employment authorization increased. The change is expected to be temporary and was done to help USCIS’ efforts in catching up on a backlog of cases caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The result is expected to be a more efficient and timely handling of these cases in the future.
While in this way the change may benefit USCIS, it also creates another modification that employers must be aware of and abide by to maintain compliance with the federal government. The challenge becomes employers knowing about the change and then implementing it correctly into their hiring process. For this reason, more companies are turning to the resource of a professional compliance solutions company who can assist with notifying employers of important changes and incorporating them into the employer’s compliance efforts.
Prior Automatic Extension Period for Employment Authorization
Before the USCIS’ announcement in May of 2022, the existing automatic extension period for employment authorization was limited to 180 days. However, this amount of time began to be seen as ineffective because it:
- At times allowed for gaps in employment for non-citizens
- Did not provide support for families of the temporarily unemployed
- Caused disruption to regular operations for U.S. employers
To compound these problems, the USCIS has struggled to keep up with caseload levels that is due in large part to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a hiring freeze and furlough. Together the situation became a perfect storm in depleting the workforce and reducing the agency’s capacity at the same time there was a sharp increase in EAD filings.
Automatic Extension Period for Employment Authorization Increased
On May 3, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced an increase in the automatic extension period for employment authorization as well as Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) via a Temporary Final Rule (TFR). This increased extension period went into effect on May 4, 2022 and may be available to some applicants for up to 540 days. This is a 360-day addition to the existing 180 days.
With the automatic extension period for employment authorization increased, there are hopes it will help non-citizens with pending EAD renewal applications avoid unemployment while also simultaneously helping to steady daily operations for domestic employers. In addition, it is estimated to allow USCIS time to expand their workforce, increase their efficiency, and get closer to returning to a 180-day cycle for EAD applications by the end of the 2023 fiscal year.
How the Increased Extension Period Works
Some of the primary components of recent Temporary Final Rule (TFR) are as follows:
- Applicable only to EAD categories that are considered currently eligible according to USCIS guidelines
- Consists of an automatic increase of up to 360 days to the existing 180-day total, which yields a total extension time of up to 540 days
- Applies to applicants that filed a Form I-765 in a timely manner pending in the eighteen-month period after the TFR publication
The temporary increase of the extension period is intended to allow the USCIS time to regroup and catch up on their current caseload backlog.
Depending on the specific circumstances for a non-citizen, they may fall into one of the following categories:
- If a non-citizen has a pending EAD renewal application and their 180-day automatic extension has already lapsed and therefore their EAD has expired, these individuals will most likely be given an additional period of employment authorization and EAD validity beginning May 4, 2022, up to 540 days after.
- Non-citizens who have a pending EAD renewal but are still within their 180-day automatic extension should get up to a 360-day extension for a total of up to 540 days past the current EAD’s expiration date.
- Non-citizens with a valid EAD and pending renewal application on May 4, 2022, or that file an EAD renewal well before October 27, 2023, should be granted up to the 540-day extension if their EAD expires before the Form I-765 is processed.
For most individuals, the automatic extension ends whichever of the following happens first:
- when a final decision has been made on the renewal application
- at the end of the up to 540-day period following the expiration date of the person’s expired EAD
How Long Will the Temporary Increased Automatic Extension Period for Employment Authorization Last?
The increase of the extension period is meant to be a temporary solution rather than a permanent one. If all goes according to plan, USCIS hopes to return to the normal 180-day time period by October 27, 2023 for those applicants that are eligible and file the Form I-765 renewal application in a timely manner.
As October 2023 draws near, the agency will have to reevaluate to ensure this deadline is indeed achievable. If it is not, there could potentially be a new announcement regarding the increased extension.
Digital I-9 Compliance Software as a Resource for Changing Mandates
From time to time, and especially since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are going to be temporary changes made to the compliance process for hiring. Staying current on work eligibility and authorization laws is something employers must bear the responsibility of alone, unless they have the help of a reputable partner offering digital I-9 compliance software.
This type of software program is designed to help notify employers of changes to federal compliance mandates. This is critical as not knowing about the change is not considered a viable excuse for being out of compliance. Non-compliance can then have a domino effect for a company that could result in violations and financial penalties.
Compliance software can integrate these changes into the system so that the system can prompt the employer with pertinent alerts and notices as applicable. This may reduce the amount of stress on the employer to catch everything on their own and give them more peace of mind that they are doing everything they can to meet federal regulations.
The automatic extension period for employment authorization increased, but there is no need for employers to panic if they have reputable and trustworthy digital I-9 compliance software to help them navigate this change.