JANUARY 2022
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Immigration

EAD UpDATE, VISA APPLICATIONS

Dilip Patel

By DILIP PATEL

I wish our readers all the very best for 2022. This is also a good time to check the validity dates of passports, visas and I-94’s.

EAD UPDATE

An important update was announced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Dec. 28 to help alleviate for at least some applicants the intolerable delays in renewing their Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If you are a healthcare worker who has a pending Employment Authorization Document (EAD) renewal application (Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization) and your EAD expires in 30 days or less or has already expired, you can request expedited processing of your EAD application. Who is a qualifying healthcare worker? USCIS references the August 2021 Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce published by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The memo is available at https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/essential_critical_infrastructure_workforce-guidance_v4.1_508.pdf
The list of critical healthcare workers is broad and apart from the obvious healthcare workers also includes workers required for effective clinical, command, infrastructure, support service, administrative, security and intelligence operations across the direct patient care and full healthcare and public health spectrum.

The request for expedited processing is made by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833).The challenge is to get through to a live person and make the request. Be prepared to clearly express why you qualify as a healthcare worker and why you are eligible to request expedited processing. 

If the evidence you provide is not sufficient, USCIS may not accommodate your request for expedited processing of your Form I-765. Expedited processing means only that USCIS will process the application faster – the announcement does not specify how quickly the EAD will be issued.

While this does not provide relief for the thousands of other applicants whose EAD’s have been delayed by many months, hopefully this is a sign that USCIS is finally taking steps to manage the EAD processing delays.

VISA APPLICATIONS – WAIVER OF INTERVIEWS

On Dec. 23, 2021, the Secretary of State authorized consular offices through Dec. 31, 2022, to waive in-person interview requirements for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants.

Who is covered under the expanded authorization?

Newly covered visa types: The new authorization applies to those applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence. Consular officers have the discretion to waive the interview requirement for individuals applying for these visa types that were previously issued any type of visa. Applicants that have been refused a visa in the past do not qualify unless that refusal was overcome or waived, and there should be no apparent or potential ineligibility. Consular officers also have the discretion to waive the interview requirement for those applying for H-1, H-2, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas for the first time who are citizens of a VWP participating country if there is no apparent or potential ineligibility and the individual has previously traveled to the United States using authorization under ESTA.

F, M, and academic J applicants: DOS has extended the previously approved policies to waive visa interviews for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through December 31, 2022. However, applicants eligible for waiver authority because they are citizens or nationals of a VWP participating country now must have previously traveled to the United States using an ESTA authorization to qualify.

In addition, consular officers have the authority to waive visa interviews for F, M, and academic J visa applicants previously issued any type of visa, provided they have not been refused a visa that was not subsequently overcome or waived, and where there is no apparent or potential ineligibility. First-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens of a VWP participating country and have previously traveled to the United States using ESTA authorization may also have their interview waived provided they have no apparent or potential ineligibility.

Visa renewal: The authorization provided to consular officers to waive the in-person interview for applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration has been extended indefinitely. This broad language suggests that interview waivers could be extended even to renewals for B-1/B-2 applicants, many of whom would benefit given lengthy visa appointment wait times at certain posts.

Consular operations and the level of visa services offered vary widely among countries and even among individual posts due to the ongoing global pandemic. Therefore, it is important to review the website of the individual Consular Office for the latest guidance.

Dilip Patel of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, a board-certified expert on immigration law, can be reached at (813) 222-1120 or email dilip.patel@bipc.com

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