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Following Push from Pingree, Biden Admin Expands Protections for Individuals Affected by USCIS Work Permit Backlog

Amid Nationwide Workforce Shortage, Maine’s 1st District Congresswoman Advocated for Extended Validity for Expiring Work Permits and Introduced Legislation to Shorten Initial Work Permit Wait Times

Today, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) welcomed the announcement from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that certain Employment Authorization Document (EAD) renewal applicants’ work permits will be automatically extended for 540 days, as opposed to 180 days. The extension, effective May 4, 2022, is intended to help avoid gaps in employment for noncitizens with pending EAD renewal applications and stabilize the continuity of operations for U.S. employers. The announcement follows a months-long push from Pingree for the Biden administration to address the application delays and work to ease the bureaucratic backlog impacting work permit holders, including many H-4 visa holders and asylum seekers, employers, and taxpayers in Maine and across the country.

“On top of dealing with the impacts of a global pandemic, the nation is also trying to recover from four years of bad policy that has strained our government agencies, our businesses, our economy, and our workforce. My office has heard from hundreds of new Mainers who have done everything right to be able to work and support themselves and their families—yet because of delays in renewing work authorizations, they’ve lost their jobs. I know USCIS has been working to get back on track and reduce the immense backlog that’s costing skilled workers their jobs, but with the busy tourism season upon us, immediate policy changes are needed to fix this serious issue,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “After urging the Biden administration to address this worsening crisis, I’m thrilled to hear families, employers, and already-stretched-thin local governments will be unburdened thanks to this extension.”

In addition to the relief for multiple categories of EAD renewals provided by this new rule, Pingree’s Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act would specifically help asylum seekers access employment more quickly by speeding up the initial work authorization process from the current 180-day waiting period to just 30 days. The proposed legislation and this new extension are both commonsense solutions with the shared goal of addressing our worker shortages, providing relief to over-burdened social services, and ensuring new arrivals have the chance to support themselves and their families.

In November of 2021, Pingree wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to underscore the growing issue of work permit holders losing their EADs due to USCIS processing delays, and requested that he take steps to automatically extend the 180-day auto extension period for EAD validity.

In another letter to USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou in March 2022, Pingree requested a meeting to discuss ongoing USCIS processing delays affecting EAD renewal applications. On April 21, 2022, Pingree spoke with USCIS to express the urgency of the situation in Maine’s First District, in particular the impacts on the asylum seeker population, and urged them to quickly extend the 180-day automatic extension period for expiring EADs.

Pingree’s Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, which she reintroduced in February 2022, would reduce the current 180-day waiting period for work authorization eligibility to 30 days, allowing an asylum seeker to apply for authorization as soon as the asylum claim is filed. The bill makes no changes to law or regulation relating to the asylum process. This would have an impact on new asylum seekers in Maine—allowing them to gain employment and become self-sufficient more quickly through the process of establishing roots in their new community and contributing to our local economy.



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