U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Tuesday that immigrant workers would be permitted to use their expired work permits for an additional 18 months, offering reprieve to hundreds of thousands of immigrants waiting for permission to work.
The extension, outlined in a Temporary Final Rule that will go into effect on May 4, 2022, is part of a larger government effort to reduce the enormous backlog of 1.5 million work permit applications that has stymied USCIS in recent years.
Work permits, which are typically valid for 2 years, are automatically extended for 180 days to allow immigrants to legally work while they wait for renewals. The Temporary Final Rule will temporarily increase the extension period for certain work permits by an additional 360 days.
USCIS Director UR Jaddou called the existing 180-day extension period “clearly insufficient.”
“This temporary rule will provide those noncitizens otherwise eligible for the automatic extension an opportunity to maintain employment and provide critical support for their families, while avoiding further disruption for U.S. employers,” she said in a statement, adding that the extra time will allow USCIS to reduce the backlog more quickly.
The new policy will last for 18 months until Oct. 27, 2023, when the extension period will return to 180 days.
As of February, the overall immigration application backlog had reached 9.5 million applications, compared to 5.7 million at the end of 2019.
USCIS recently announced new measures to speed up processing times, including offering premium processing for additional forms and setting new goals to decrease wait times.