H-4 work permits: Delays in Processing a few categories of US visas since the pandemic has hit numerous Indians living in the US.
The backlogs that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been managing beginning around 2020 have hit a large number of the dependent spouses of Indian professionals, working in the US on H-1B work permit visas. A portion of the spouses, dependent on H-4 status, are allowed to work in the US and have their own careers. Yet, they need approved employment authorization documents (EAD).
As indicated by the rules before the pandemic, holders of H-4 EAD needed to introduce themselves for biometrics appointments. To get their H-4 and H-4 EAD extension applications approved. Yet, in 2020, because of COVID-19, the application service centers that were conducting these appointments shut down for four months between March 2020 and July 2020.
“When they did resume their biometrics services for candidates, they were working at a significantly reduced capacity. This shutting down of application service centers and decreased operational capacity created a backlog of biometrics appointments. Which affected the H-4 extension and H-4 extension applications,” says Prashant Dubey, Washington DC-based lawyer, specializing in immigration law.
H-4 work permits
Temporary easing of the automatic extension period of the EAD, which was regularly up to 180 days. To up to 360 extra days for eligible candidates by the US Department of homeland security has helped a portion of the Indian H-4 visa holders. “However, the automatic extensions help just those people who are in H-4 status and past their current EAD expiration date. For first-time EAD filers or those applying for a change of status from another visa category. And those H-4 extensions pending along with H-4 EAD extension, the automatic extension rule doesn’t matter,” Dubey said. The end of the biometrics requirement for H-4 extension applications has also eased the situation for specific candidates, he added.
“In many cases, household incomes were being sliced in half, because of these job loss conditions. What’s more, given the economic climate and recession in 2020. This significantly created huge distress for many Indian households in the US isn’t having the option to manage their financial commitments,” Dubey said.
One of the solutions for H-4 visa holders facing long delays. In getting their EADs is filing lawsuits against the USCIS feels Dubey. His law office, Dubey Law Office, has, in fact, filed 500 lawsuits challenging H-4 EAD delays in the last two years.
Delays in Processing of US Visas
The process, however, isn’t difficult. “In terms of filing a claim against the USCIS. We typically require that our clients wait for at least four months from their receipt notice date before even considering litigation. The courts are not a back channel for premium processing. For example, a candidate can’t file an H-4 extension and H-4 EAD extension application today, and litigate immediately,” Dubey says.
However, the litigation route has proved an answer for a portion of his clients. Who were facing critical delays and the risk of losing their jobs, job offers, and health insurance. Commonly, numerous H-4 spouses have faced frustrating issues, for example, being terminated from their jobs; being put on a leave of absence, or being unable to accept new job offers. Because of pandemic-linked delays in the approval of the H-4 and H-4 EAD extension applications.
“One of the issues that we see with large numbers of our clients is that the processing times are unreasonable. Some of them have had applications stuck in processing for over a year. Another underlying theme is either job loss or an inability to accept job offers. Without a valid EAD card, people can’t proceed with their employment and they’re also unable to get future employment,” Dubey said.