One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on our immigration system, was the increase in backlogs, and the increase in processing times. For example, a work permit would take about 6 months to process, maybe less, before the pandemic. Now, work permits can now take sometimes a year and a half to receive. USCIS has been working to decrease this backlog, but in the meantime, many are having issues with their eligibility to work. For these reasons, USCIS has implemented some new policies to help ease the burden.
Certain people who can renew their work permits, will receive an automatic extension of their expiring permit. The automatic extension is for 180 days, and the receipt notice serves as the official document extending the work permit. These automatic extensions apply for categories such as asylees, Temporary Protected Status grantees, spouses of E nonimmigrant holders, pending adjustment of status applications, and certain applicants for relief in immigration court. Starting May 4, 2022, that 180-day extension became a 540-day extension, just further showing the need for more time to process work permit applications.
Work Permit Process
The work permit process can be confusing as there are many different categories under which one would be eligible. Some categories require fees, some don’t. Some require fees for renewals but not the initial one. So, using the USCIS fee calculator and reading the instructions can be of help in these circumstances.
Having a work permit comes with obvious benefits: being able to work lawfully, obtain a social security number, and in many cases, a state identification card. Once one has a social security number, they can work and accrue benefits through the taxes paid to the federal government.
Generally speaking, one must have an application pending to obtain a work permit, and as previously mentioned, the first one can take over a year to process. Hopefully that will change in the future. However, there are other categories where one can get a work permit. For example, if one is a recipient of “deferred action” under certain categories, the applicant can remain in the U.S. without lawful status, but with a work permit. This area of the law can be complicated, so keep up to date with the upcoming changes, or call an immigration attorney to discuss how the changes can help you.