USCIS Announces Change – Many Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) and Travel Documents Will Now Be Valid for Five Years

The EAD card and validity period

There are now some 75 different situations that authorize foreign nationals to work in the U.S. In many cases, the proof of that employment authorization is in the form of an actual card called an Employment Authorization Document or “EAD” card.  Depending on the reason it was given, the authorization is typically valid for either one or two years, as indicated by the expiration date on the card.

As of September 27, 2023, many EADs will now be valid for five years.  This is great news for both workers and employers.

Why the need to extend the EAD validity period

Many categories of employment authorization are based on the foreign national having a different type of case pending that allows them to work until there is a final decision on that underlying application.  For example, someone who has an application for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (green card) is allowed to work until that case is reviewed and decided.

Decisions on the underlying applications, however, have been taking much longer than in the past.  As a result, workers need to apply to renew their employment authorization, sometimes repeatedly.  The renewal applications can take seven to nine months and even longer, which complicates the process.  The longer validity period for the EAD will alleviate gaps in employment authorization, and the need for repeated renewal applications should significantly decrease.

Which EADs will be valid for five years?

The EAD’s that will be valid for five years include:

  • Those admitted as refugees, granted asylum, and granted withholding of deportation or removal;
  • Those with pending applications for asylum or withholding of removal;
  • Those with pending applications for suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal; and
  • Those with pending adjustment of status applications under INA 245.

Also, noncitizens who are permitted to enter the United States as refugees, called “paroled” into the U.S., will now be authorized to work for the entire period of their authorized stay, not to exceed five years.

Check the expiration date

The USCIS notes that it retains full discretion over the validity period and may issue employment authorization for less than five years.  It is important, therefore, to check the expiration date of the card.

Extending the validity of AP travel documents to five years

In addition to updating the EAD validity periods, USCIS will also begin issuing five-year Advance Parole (AP) documents. This document is required to allow noncitizens in many different situations to be able to travel outside the U.S. and still be able to return without abandoning their status or their pending underlying case. This travel document may be issued as a separate document or combined on the EAD card if so stated on the card.

Extending the validity periods is a good step

The significant extension of the validity periods from one or two (depending on the category) to five years for employment authorization and also for travel documents should greatly  reduce the burden on employers to reverify and potentially have to lay off valued employees, on workers who risk gaps in their employment authorization due only to government processing delays, – and on noncitizens with an urgent need to travel for work, education, or compelling humanitarian reason such as life-threatening illness of a family member.

Employers are “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t”

The new validity periods, however, do not change the many different categories under which a noncitizen may be authorized to work.  In some (but not all) cases, noncitizens may continue to work while renewal is pending based on a receipt notice or have the EAD extended based on notice in the Federal Register.  Because most employers will not be aware of these complexities, we can help.

It is important to note that employers are subject to fines both from the Department of Homeland Security for failing to properly verify an employee’s authorization to work in the U.S. and also from the U.S. Department of Justice for failing to hire a person the employer believed is not authorized to work but who actually is authorized.  That is why working with us to answer any questions that may arise matters.

We can help you avoid potentially large fines from either side.  We will work with you to do an internal audit of your current documents, train you or your HR people, and be available to you for any questions that come up in the future.