Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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I’m on an L-2 visa as a dependent spouse to my husband’s L-1A.
My EAD (work permit) is expiring in May — we filed for the extension of both my visa and EAD a few months ago. How long is the current process?
Might there be anything I can do so my employment isn’t affected?
— Career Centered
I’ve got fantastic news for you and other L-1 spouses — and your employers! As long as your visa remains valid, you are no longer at risk of having your employment interrupted due to delays in getting your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Thanks to a policy change by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), getting work authorization is now easier for L-2 spouses of L-1 visa holders as well as a few other categories. As Elon Musk said this week, for anybody who wants to work hard in the U.S., immigration should be a “no-brainer.”
Soaring processing times
During the past two years, processing times for EADs soared due to a combination of backlogs prompted by the pandemic, funding issues and paper-based USCIS processing procedures.
Depending on which USCIS service center processed the EAD renewal application (Form I-765), timing ranged from about 90 days to more than a year. Interesting to note, it can take anywhere from 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 prompts big 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 suit was filed on behalf of dependent spouses of H-1B and L-1 visa holders, many of whom had been forced to stop working when USCIS failed to approve and send out new EADs before the current ones expired due to substantial processing delays.
The situation was compounded by the fact that EAD renewals can’t be filed more than six months in advance of their expiration date.