Healthcare Workers Might be Eligible to Expedite Replacement Employment Authorization Documents
Effective December 28, 2021, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) is providing a method for healthcare workers who hold Employment Authorization Documents (“EAD”) that expire within 30 days to contact the USCIS and have a pending application for a new document expedited. The new guidance provides that if an employee qualifies as a healthcare worker who has a pending EAD renewal application (Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization), the employee can call the USCIS Contact Center and request expedited processing of the pending EAD application. For this purpose, a qualifying healthcare worker includes, but is not limited to, physicians; dentists; psychologists; midlevel practitioners; nurses; emergency medical services personnel, assistants and aids; infection control and quality assurance personnel; phlebotomists; pharmacists; physical, respiratory, speech and occupational therapists and assistants; social workers; optometrists; speech pathologists; chiropractors; diagnostic and therapeutic technicians; and radiology technologists. A full list of healthcare providers can be found in Version 4.1 of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response.
The employee will need to be prepared to provide evidence of their profession or current employment as a healthcare worker, but the guidance provides no information on what evidence of such will be considered sufficient to be granted expedited processing. The employee will also need to be able to provide evidence, including a receipt number, of a filed and pending Form I-765.
Of course, expedited processing only means that the Form I-765 application will be processed faster, and not that it will be approved; and, the employee will not be able to continue working if the new EAD is not delivered to them before their current document expires. Keep in mind, however, that some categories of EADs are auto-extended, which would allow the employee to continue working for a period of up to 180 days after their current EAD expires. Hopefully, between the auto-extension rule and this new expedite request process, fewer healthcare workers will be forced to quit working while waiting for the USCIS to act on their application for new authorization.