Asylum Seekers Sue USCIS in Order to Force Agency to Process Work Authorizations Faster

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Agency is facing a lawsuit claiming that their delay in processing applications is illegal. A group of asylum applicants at risk of losing their employment authorization due to the now, in some instances, ten-month processing time has filed a lawsuit against the agency.

The group of five foreign nationals is all at risk of losing their ability to work in the U.S. and has begun the process to form a nationwide class action against the agency. According to the applicants, the current ten-month processing time for pending asylum bids extends far beyond the 180-day automatic extension period which the USCIS set forth in a 2016 rule and thus would amount to an unreasonable delay violating federal law.

The five plaintiffs include a wide band of employment qualifications, including a doctor that has already lost her position working at two hospitals as a result of the delays and can no longer support herself or her family. The plaintiffs also include an entrepreneur hoping to open his own trucking company but is incapable of renewing his license and a manager of a fast-food restaurant that is at risk of losing her position unless the renewal is processed in time.

Currently, the USCIS has provided no take on the matter, simply stating that the agency does not comment on pending litigation. However, the lawyers for the plaintiffs have stated that the loss of employment workers face due to the delays can hamper their ability to hold health insurance, earn a living, and maintain professional licenses. In the case of one of these plaintiffs, the loss may even include their driver’s license. The plaintiffs are seeking redress in a federal court in San Francisco.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking for the courts to mandate that the agency process pending work authorization renewals within the 180-day extension period preventing possible loss of employment. Currently, the delays very often exceed the leeway this automatic extension provides, making it difficult for employers to maintain their workforce and for employees to retain their pay and benefits.

If this lawsuit succeeds, the USCIS would have to complete the process within this timeframe ensuring that this result does not happen. However, currently, there is no indication from the courts whether or not the class will be approved. As of now, the best way to ensure your workforce remains compliant is to ensure you and your workforce file for all necessary renewals at the earliest possible date.