Why is my work permit taking so long?

Erick Widman

In order to ease the transition of adjusting one’s status (for example from a student visa to permanent residency), USCIS allows the applicant to apply for a temporary travel permit and employment authorization document (EAD or work permit). When we submit an Adjustment of Status packet we include applications for the green card, travel permit, and EAD. We do this so our clients can travel and work while their case is pending.

Back in the good old days (mid-2018), these documents were processed within 90 days of filing the Adjustment of Status packet. Once received, the intending immigrant would have the ability to accept employment, earn income, obtain a social security number, and travel internationally while their I-485, Adjustment of Status petition was pending for several more months.

Unfortunately, these days are over. For the majority of family-based Adjustment of Status petitions, EAD and travel document applications are now taking anywhere between three and six months to process. On the longer end of this processing window, the reality is that these documents are becoming obsolete since the adjustment application itself is sometimes adjudicated within five to six months. In some cases (like Portland, OR), we are now seeing applicants receive interview appointment notices for their I-485 application before the EAD and travel document are reviewed or approved. Based on the timing of this, these temporary documents may be cancelled entirely if USCIS determines that benefits have already been received through other means (i.e. receipt of the permanent resident card).

While it is good news when an Adjustment of Status takes only five or six months to process, it is often frustrating for the applicant to not receive any updates or immigrant benefits while their case is pending. This of course includes the ability to work and earn income, set up a bank account, file taxes, and obtain a driver’s license.

If you find yourself in the situation being described, at least know that you are not alone, and that there is nothing wrong with your case! Nearly all cases are experiencing these delays with the EAD in particular, and it does not mean your case was filed improperly. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to follow up on these delayed applications, as USCIS generally only accepts electronic or phone requests after an application has moved beyond the “normal processing time” window. For many cases, this processing time extends to six months, and so USCIS will likely respond only to say that the case is still considered “normal.”

In short, the processing time for work permits has changed from three months to six months. If your application has been pending for more than six months, you can inquire about its status by submitting an e-Request.

Our office will continue to monitor these applications for our clients and checking in with USCIS whenever possible.

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