USCIS Extends Validity of Certain Work Permits


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that refugees and those granted asylum will no longer have to renew their work permits annually. Instead, to address the agency’s significant processing delays, they will be able to renew work permits in two-year increments.

This update to the USCIS’ policy manual will apply to foreign nationals who have been granted refugee status and individuals granted asylum, as well as individuals who have self-petitioned for green cards under a domestic abuse survivor program. It will also apply to those who have been granted withholding of removal.

This change will allow many immigrants who hold temporary deportation protection to hold work permits that will remain valid for as long as their protections. This update will not affect work permits issued before this new policy’s issuance.

According to a USCIS spokesperson, this new policy is expected to reduce the burden these renewals place on the agency and allow it to focus its efforts on pending applications, and reduce processing times. In the same announcement, other changes that are being made to reduce the agency’s considerable backlog were highlighted. This included allowing spouses of some categories of visa holders to automatically receive work authorization without the need to apply as well as expanding exemptions from fingerprinting requirements.

According to the agency, these steps are only the beginning as the agency will act with urgency in order to bring down processing times. According to USCIS Director Ur Jaddou, one of these steps will soon be to hire almost 200 more employees in the agency’s asylum division, focusing on reducing the backlog with more hiring to come.

These changes have come in response to a request by the DHS for public feedback on how the immigration system could be improved, including how it could be made more efficient. The focus on improving efficiency has become increasingly crucial as processing delays have grown to considerable levels leaving many foreign nationals waiting several months beyond the 180-day target set by the agency. Many have lost their jobs as a result as their employers were forced to let them go without employment authorization documents.

Though this change will only directly affect a relatively small number of the enormous number awaiting a response to their applications, it is another step toward addressing the backlog. It also demonstrates the agency’s intent to act on its promise to reduce processing times.

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