Still No Work Permit?!

Many of you who are going through an immigration process have probably noticed that it’s taking a very long time to
receive your work permit. What is going on with work permits?

The delays are very significant and we are seeing backlogs and delays across the board with immigration applications. You need to be able to receive your work permit, especially for those who have no other status in the United States.

It feels like you’re in a state of limbo. In a lot of states, you won’t be able to receive a driver’s license and you can’t work.

Unfortunately, this is normal right now. This is considered the new normal. These long delays are systemic. They’re across the board and we’re seeing work permit delays in all cases.

Here are some tips to help out in navigating these difficulties with work permit delays.

1. Make an Outside of Normal Processing Times Request

If you go to the USCIS website, they have several tools and one of them is making outside of normal processing times requests.  This is what you do to check and see the processing times that immigration is estimating. It will take between x amount of months to x amount a month. Say three to six, for example. It’ll take that long to receive a decision.

And then, they will list a date for your receipt notice that you can make an inquiry. We do that for all of our clients as soon as it’s outside of normal processing times.

This is a great tool but it doesn’t mean that if you make this request, they will automatically make a decision on your application. It is a way to poke immigration and ask, “Where are you at with my case?”

Frequently, they will respond saying that they are working on it. And sometimes, we have to make multiple requests month after month. Typically, they say they’ll respond within so many weeks. At the end of that, they will send a response that says, “We’re working on it.”

You’re allowed to keep making those requests. But this is not a final solution to get a decision on your case. You should use the tool though if your case is outside of normal processing times.

2. Call USCIS

Calling USCIS is difficult because it’s hard to get past the robot and talk to a live agent. There’s a caveat when calling USCIS. Typically, the person that’s on the phone has limited information. The customer service representative is not an immigration officer. They don’t have access to your whole file and they can’t give you legal advice.

They’re just going to be reading the case status that you see online. Their information is very limited.

3. Ombudsman Request

That office of the ombudsman is a quality assurance department and they look into issues that individuals are having in their immigration case. They can see that something is broken in the immigration system that needs to be fixed. Work permit delays are something that’s broken in the immigration system that needs to be fixed.

They have an online form that you can make that request. You let them know, “My case is outside of normal processing times and I haven’t received any kind of decision.”

See: Submit a Case Assistance Request

Before you can make that request, you have to exhaust your administrative resources or remedies. This requires you to reach out to USCIS first to resolve your issue. You can’t skip this step. You need to make that request for two or three months to be able to show you’ve tried contacting USCIS several times.

You’re outside of normal processing times and they continue to say we’re working on it. That’s when you could use this tool. This isn’t an end-all-be-all solution.

The ombudsman website appears that they are not taking any requests for work permits that are outside of normal processing. We are still making these requests and I encourage you to do the same. It’s very important to let them know that you’ve been waiting a long time for your work permit longer than the processing times.

4. Receive Congressional Assistance

That is a way that you can reach out to your congressional representative. You can search for it and find out who your representatives are and figure out what their process is for making a request. Again, it’s a requirement that you reach out to USCIS, that you have tried to resolve it with them before you make the congressional request.

The congressional representative can’t force USCIS to make a decision. But if you get them involved, it’s a great way for them to be in contact with immigration and get you some clarity about what is going on with your immigration case.

5. Expedite Request

Expedite requests are not for everyone. They’re for a very limited section of cases. An expedited request is only used for very extreme circumstances. Unfortunately, immigration has made it clear that they don’t consider delayed work permits to be an extreme situation for an expedite.

Examples of cases for expedite requests are extreme financial hardship, extreme financial loss, urgent humanitarian reasons, and compelling government interests. You can see these are very specific unique cases. There won’t be many who can receive an expedite request approval.

Be very careful in filing for an expedite request because if you try to do that for severe extreme financial hardship, it can negatively impact your case in terms of the I-864 Affidavit of Support where an immigrant has to show they won’t be a public charge.

It can send conflicting information to immigration. You’re saying, “I won’t be a public charge and I can support myself. ” And then if you try to do an expedite on the work permit for I-765 saying you have a severe financial hardship, it can cause issues on that front.

Speak with an attorney before you do file an expedite request to see if that’s even a viable option for your case.

Immigration’s Actions on Systemic Issues

Due to all the systemic issues like delays and backlogs, USCIS is making concerted efforts to make things better. For example, immigration is trying to do things like reusing biometrics that people already have in the system from fingerprint appointments they’ve had before.

Reusing those biometrics appointments is great because that means they can move on to the next step in their case without having to take biometrics again. Having more people going to immigration offices for those appointments does not help the backlog.

Immigration is also issuing work permits for a two-year period instead of a one-year period. This is great because then there’ll be fewer work permit renewals happening. Immigration is doing other unique things for individuals who are renewing their green card. They’re sending them an automatic extension of their green card while they wait for the next one.

It limits the amount of contact that a person has to have with immigration. It frees them up to be able to address the backlog. Last but not least, we are seeing faster processing times in some case types. Specifically, the I-130 and the I-751 removal of conditions.

We can see that immigration is trying to address the backlogs and we hope that they can continue improving and prioritizing all of the cases that they have and moving things forward so you can receive your work permit as soon as possible.

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