Immigration agency extends duration of some work permits, announces new mission statement

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced plans to immediately increase the length of certain types of work permits to reduce application times for immigrant workers.

He also unveiled a new mission statement outlining his vision to be more “inclusive and accessible” under President Joe Biden’s administration, following the previous administration’s more restrictive approach to immigration.

The federal agency responsible for overseeing the country’s legal immigration system is facing a backlog of 3.8 million applications worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an internal monitoring report.

This has resulted in long delays for many immigration applications they process, particularly in issuing work permits. They represent 1.4 million of the 8 million applications Citizenship and Immigration Services are pending for visas, permits and green cards for immigrants living in the United States.

Applicants face processing delays

Requests that in the past took weeks have instead taken the agency months to process. Delays sometimes extended beyond the validity of permits and automatic extensions, forcing thousands of immigrant workers out of their jobs while waiting for the agency to process applications.

The agency announced on Tuesday that it will extend the duration of six types of work permits to reduce the number of applications that will have to be added to an already long queue.

“The policy updates were not only intended to address processing backlogs – which are a priority for the agency – but also gave USCIS the flexibility to quickly shift adjudicative resources if needed. “Said Ana Santiago, spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, by email.

Immigrants with temporary status or protection in the country need permission from the agency to legally work in the United States. There are nearly 60 categories eligible to file Form I-765, the Application for Authorization to Work. The agency extends the validity of work permits for six of these categories.

  • Refugees.

  • Asylums (status granted, not pending).

  • Persons benefiting from a suspension of deportation or removal.

  • Applicants under the Violence Against Women Act.

  • People released on parole in the country for urgent humanitarian reasons.

  • People with Deferred Action, but not including DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Previously, applicants in 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 span the length of their parole or deferred action period, instead of shorter periods as was the case before this week.

Who will be affected by the changes

This decision should benefit a relatively small group of candidates. In fiscal year 2021, Citizenship and Immigration Services approved more than 120,000 applications in 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 urgently to reduce processing times at all levels, including for (employment authorization documents),” Santiago added, referring in the official name of work permits.

Citizenship and Immigration Services has taken other steps over the past year to reduce the backlog of work permit applications. The five-year strategy is to digitize applications to gain efficiencies and reduce response times.

The agency has extended automatic extensions for certain categories of permits and is reusing fingerprints on some renewals to process applications faster. It moved applications from immigrant healthcare workers to the front of the queue.

But the new changes announced by the agency would not affect the largest block of I-765 applications, those from asylum seekers with pending cases, which accounted for nearly 333,000 permits approved last year. These already last two years, with an automatic extension of six months for unresolved requests for renewal of the permit.

Long waiting time: Thousands of essential immigrant workers languish amid federal backlog

The agency sued for delays in processing

The Asylum Seekers Advocacy Project, a national nonprofit organization, and the American Immigration Council in Washington filed a complaint in San Francisco on behalf of five asylum seekers against Citizenship and Immigration Services for delays in processing work permits.

They argue the agency is not moving fast enough to process applications, resulting in lost jobs and other benefits for immigrant workers whose work permits have expired or are about to expire in reason for delays.

Dayana Vera de Aponte, an asylum seeker from Venezuela, is listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. She had her I-765 approved in January, nearly 11 months after filing the first request. His license expired before that date, forcing him to stop working for two months.

“It’s hard: I had to borrow money to pay for the most important things. I have a car, I have credit cards that I have to pay, other accounts on hold, rent “, she told The Arizona Republic last month.

The US Department of Justice, representing the federal government in court, filed a motion last month to dismiss the lawsuit. This motion is under seal. A hearing is set for March 11.

The agency changes its mission statement

The agency has come under fire from immigration advocates under former President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump has been accused of politicizing the agency and adding requirements that have increased the backlog.

In 2018, the agency removed references to a “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement. On Wednesday, the agency’s chief unveiled a new mission statement, after consulting his 19,000 staff on the change.

The new mission statement reads, “USCIS delivers on America’s promise as a nation of welcome and opportunity with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.”

Do you have any news advice or ideas for articles on immigration to the South West? Contact the reporter at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at @RafaelCarranza.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Immigration agency extends some work permits to reduce processing times