The Federal Government Announces The Extension Of Work Permits For Some Immigrants
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced plans to immediately increase the length of validity for certain types of work permits to reduce the times that immigrant workers will have to file applications.
It also unveiled a new mission statement laying out its vision to be more “inclusive and accessible” under the administration of President Joe Biden, after the previous administration’s more restrictive approach to immigration.
The federal agency responsible for overseeing the country’s legal immigration system faces an application backlog of 3.8 million worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an internal watchdog report.
That has led to long delays for many of the immigration petitions they process, especially to issue work permits. They account for 1.4 million of the 8 million applications that Citizenship and Immigration Services has pending for visas, permits, and green cards for immigrants living in the United States.
Applicants Face Processing Delays
Applications that in the past only took weeks, have instead taken the agency months to process. The delays have at times extended beyond the validity of the permits and automatic extensions, forcing thousands of immigrant workers to leave their jobs as they wait for the agency to process applications.
The agency announced Tuesday it would extend the length of six types of work permits in order to reduce the number of applications that will have to be added to an already lengthy queue.
“The policy updates were not only intended to address processing delays — which are an agency priority — but also afforded USCIS the option to quickly shift adjudication resources when necessary,” Ana Santiago, a Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson, said via email.
Immigrants with temporary status or protection in the country need authorization from the agency to work legally in the U.S. There are nearly 60 categories eligible to file a Form I-765, the application to receive work authorization. The agency is extending the validity of work permits for six of these categories:
- Asylees (granted, not pending status).
- Individuals granted withholding of deportation or removal.
- Applicants under the Violence Against Women Act.
- Individuals are paroled into the country for urgent humanitarian reasons.
- Individuals granted deferred action, but not including DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Previously, applicants under the first four categories were eligible to receive a one-year work permit. But effective immediately, all new and renewal applications will be valid for two years, if approved.
For the remaining two categories, approved work permits will extend for the duration of their parole or deferred action period, instead of shorter periods of time as was the case before this week.
The graph indicates the median length of time, in months, over the past 10 fiscal years that it has taken employees at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process applications for the four categories with the largest number of pending cases. However, migrant advocates claim that processing times are significantly longer than what USCIS has reported.
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Who will be affected by the changes
The move is expected to benefit a relatively small pool of applicants. In fiscal year 2021, Citizenship and Immigration Services approved more than 120,000 applications under the six I-765 categories affected by this week’s change. That same year, the agency approved a total of 1.6 million work permits.
“These steps are just the beginning and USCIS will continue to work with urgency to bring down processing times across the board, including for (employment authorization documents),” Santiago added, referring to the formal name for the work permits.
Citizenship and Immigration Services has taken other steps over the past year to reduce the backlog in work permit applications. The five-year strategy is to digitize applications in order to boost efficiency and reduce response times.
The agency has extended automatic extensions for certain permit categories and is reusing fingerprints on some renewals to process the applications more quickly. It moved applications from immigrant healthcare workers to the front of the queue.
But the new changes the agency announced would not impact the largest block of I-765 applications, those for asylum seekers with pending cases, which accounted for nearly 333,000 of permits approved last year. Those are already two years in length, with an automatic six-month extension for unresolved applications to renew the permit.
(Article Content Source: AZCentral)
Biden Proposes House Arrest in Lieu of Detention for Immigrants
As an alternative to immigration detention, the Biden Administration has launched a new 120-day pilot program in Houston and Baltimore for between 100 and 200 adults at each location that will require the individuals to remain home during certain hours of the day, such as 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m., with exceptions for jobs or extraordinary circumstances. This pilot program will cost less than $10 per day per person, compared to the current cost of nearly $150 per day for detention.
The new plan was created in an effort to address a large number of arrests at the U.S./Mexico border, as well as limited detention space. The Biden administration has indicated it will seek funding from Congress to place up to 400,000 immigrations in alternative programs rather than detention facilities. Current alternatives do not involve a modified house arrest, and include ankle bracelet monitoring and phone monitoring.
New Legislative Offers Lengthy Pathway to Citizenship
This week, Representative Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Florida) introduced new legislation that would establish a new legal residency program for millions of undocumented immigrants, as well as create a path to citizenship for those who complete the program.
The bill, entitled “The Dignity Act,” would institute several changes to the existing immigration system. These would include, in addition to permanent residency for millions in the United States, increase border security and offer expedited processing for asylum. The bill would also require all U.S. employers to use E-verify, a system that assesses whether an employee is authorized to work at the point of hire.
The 483-page legislation lists out many rules and requirements for undocumented immigrants who would be seeking permanent residency, including setting up two long-term programs. Those who qualify would need to undergo a background check, pay back any owed taxes, ensure payment of all taxes moving forward, and pay a $10,000 penalty over a 10-year period. Participants would also be required to have health insurance but would not be eligible for federal subsidies. Additionally, there would be a 2% income tax levy for the participants. After 10 years, participants would have the option of remaining in the country under a renewable visa or enter a program to achieve citizenship. Under this program, participants would need to pay additional fines that would support workforce training for U.S. citizens. Those in the U.S. under the DACA program would also have multiple pathways to permanent resident status, including military services and earning a college degree.
(Article Source : The National Law Review)