The American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) has filed a class action lawsuit against the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because of lengthy delays in processing the Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) of spouses of H1B and L1 visa holders. The majority of those affected are spouses of tech professionals from India.
President of the AILA, Jennifer Minear, said: “The delays that H4 and L2 non-immigrants are facing needlessly place families in financial limbo.”
Minear claims that the DHS has the ‘necessary legal tools and authority’ to grant work authorization to those affected by the delays and whose financial security is shrouded in uncertainty. The AILA president said: “The DHS should immediately begin using those legal tools and its authority to offer a solution.”
The AILA is urging the DHS to scrap what it describes as the ‘unnecessary’ biometric requirements for H4 and L2 non-immigrants and provide automatic work authorization while it processes EAD renewal requests.
The association is also calling for EAD applicants to be allowed to file their renewal applications sooner than the current 180 days prior to expiration, which the AILA says will help to prevent gaps in work authorization.
AILA’s director of Federal Litigation, Jesse Bless, said: “In 2019, the Trump administration implemented a new biometric requirement for H4 and L2 and other dependents seeking to extend their stay in the US.”
“These new requirements added to the already extraordinary processing delays, which were further exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions. The process to attain work authorization should not put families at the risk of immense loss of income and instability,” Mr Bless added.
According to Bless, there are reasonable and immediate steps that the DHS can take to ensure that visa holders meet the necessary requirements, with needless suffering being caused.
He said: “We hope to work with the government on immediate solutions to get these individuals back to work.”
E2 visa delays
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, US visa processing in and out of country has been hit by significant delays. The E2 visa in particular has been hit by major backlogs. According to data released by the US Department of State (DoS), in 2020 there was a 45% drop in the number of E2 visas issued compared to 2019.
However, with consulates and embassies beginning to reopen and COVID restrictions starting to ease, the number of US visas being issued is steadily rising.
Meanwhile, a US visa ban imposed by former President Donald Trump is expected to end on March 31, potentially paving the way for an increase in US visa applications and approvals. However, because of continued COVID restrictions in several regions and countries, US visa applicants may have to apply for National Interest Exceptions before being issued a visa.
US President, Joe Biden, lifted the ban in February, though it remains in effect until the end of March. Despite the ban being lifted, backlogs and delays are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
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