Washington: The Biden administration has announced that certain categories of immigrants, including those seeking green cards and spouses of H-1B visa holders, would be permitted to use their expired work permits for an additional 18 months, offering a reprieve to thousands of Indians working in this country and prevent further disruption for US employers.
A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently in the US.
The move announced by the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday will go into effect from May 4, 2022.
The extension period of up to 180 days will automatically be extended to up to 540 days from the expiration date stated on the current Employment Authorisation Cards (EADs), the Department of Homeland Security said.
"As USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) works to address the pending EAD caseloads, the agency has determined that the current 180-day automatic extension for employment authorisation is currently insufficient," said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou.
"This temporary rule will provide those non-citizens, otherwise eligible for the automatic extension, an opportunity to maintain employment and provide critical support for their families, while avoiding further disruption for US employers," he said.
According to USCIS, non-citizens with a pending EAD renewal application whose 180-day automatic extension has lapsed and whose EAD has expired will be granted an additional period of employment authorisation and EAD validity beginning May 4, 2022, and lasting up to 540 days from the expiration date of their EAD.
They may resume employment if they are still within the up to 540-day automatic extension period and are otherwise eligible.
Non-citizens with a pending renewal application still covered under the 180-day automatic extension will be granted an additional extension of up to 360 days, for a total of up to 540 days past the expiration of the current EAD.
Non-citizens with a pending renewal application and a valid EAD on May 4, 2022, or who timely file an EAD renewal application before October 27, 2023, will be granted an automatic extension of up to 540 days if their EAD expires before the renewal application is processed.
"The change will immediately help about 87,000 immigrants whose work authorisation has lapsed or is set to in the next 30 days. Overall, the government estimates that as many as 4,20,000 immigrants renewing work permits will be protected from losing their ability to work for the duration of the policy," Indian-American community leader Ajay Jain Bhutoria told PTI.
The policy is meant to address the unprecedented backlog of 1.5 million work permit applications at the nation's legal immigration agency, leaving tens of thousands unable to work legally and exacerbating labour shortages.
Welcoming the change in policy, Bhutoria said this is great news for employers as most companies are facing staffing issues and will now be able to keep their eligible employees.
"This policy change allows employers to continue their workers and eligible immigrants to work on expired documents for up to 540 days, rather than 180. That means even the tens of thousands of people past their 180-day window have as much as another year of work authorisation as of Wednesday," he said.
"This is the right step in the direction to reduce the visa processing backlog," he said.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
The H-1B visa programme is the most sought-after work visa among foreign professionals, including Indians....