Here’s another edition from “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that empowers people around the world to rise above the limits and pursue their dreams,” said Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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I have an L-2 visa as a dependent spouse of my husband’s L-1A.
My EAD (work permit) expires in May – we applied for the extension of both my visa and EAD a few months ago. How long does the current process take?
Is there anything I can do so that my employment is not affected?
— Career Oriented
I have great news for you and other L-1 spouses – and your employers! As long as your visa remains valid, you no longer run the risk of your employment being interrupted due to delays in obtaining your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Thanks to a policy change by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), it is now easier to get work permits for L-2 spouses of L-1 visa holders, as well as a few other categories. As Elon Musk said this week, for anyone willing to work hard in the US, immigration should be a “no-brainer.”
Increasing processing times
Over the past two years, processing times for EADs have skyrocketed due to a combination of pandemic backlogs, funding issues, and paper-based USCIS processing procedures.
Depending on which USCIS service center processed the EAD renewal request (Form I-765), the timing ranged from about 90 days to more than a year. Interesting to note, it can take 7.5 to 14.5 months to process EADs at the California Service Center. At the Texas Service Center, it can take two to 13 months.
Lawsuit leads to major policy changes
Last September, a group of spouse-dependent visa holders filed a class action lawsuit against the Secretary of Homeland Security, who oversees USCIS. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of dependent spouses of H-1B and L-1 visa holders, many of whom were forced to retire when USCIS failed to approve and ship new EADs before the current ones expired due to significant delays in the processing.
The situation was exacerbated by the fact that renewals of EADs cannot be submitted more than six months before the expiry date.