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Compelling Circumstances Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

1. What is a compelling circumstances EAD?

A Compelling Circumstances Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is a special type of work permit issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It allows certain non-U.S. citizens with approved I-140; specifically, those on H-1B/L-1/E-3/O status from countries like India/China that have an extensive backlog of Employment based Immigrant visas, to work in the United States temporarily. If granted, these workers do not need to leave the US immediately if they lose their status.

2. Who may be eligible for a compelling circumstance EAD?

To be eligible for this EAD, the applicant must:

  1. Be a Principal Beneficiary of an approved I-140 or a Derivative Beneficiary (Principal Beneficiary’s spouse or unmarried child under 21 years of age)
  2. Be maintaining their status or file the EAD application within the applicable grace period (E.g.: 60 days for a H-1B visa holder who gets laid off)
  3. Has no felony conviction or two or more misdemeanors; and
  4. Face compelling circumstances

3. What is considered to be compelling circumstances?

Compelling circumstances exist when there is a serious medical condition, employer dispute/retaliation, significant disruption to the employer OR substantial harm to the applicant. USCIS has clarified that a person can prove exigent circumstance in cases when they have been living in the US for a significant amount of time, and have lost their jobs and are likely to incur significant financial loses in selling their home, breaking the lease, pulling children out of school etc. if they have to leave the US abruptly to relocate back to their home country due to job loss.

Each of these situations is subjective and will be decided on a case-by-case basis and USCIS may consider similar situations that do not fall squarely between these stipulations.

4. Are my dependents eligible to stay and apply for EAD?

Similar to the H-1B worker, the dependent spouse, and unmarried children under 21 are also eligible for employment authorization which will allow them to live, work and study in the US. Please note that you need to file a separate employment authorization application for each of your dependents, including minor children.

5. What is my status if I am granted the compelling circumstance EAD?

A compelling circumstance EAD protects eligible nonimmigrant workers and their dependents from unlawful presence but does not grant a status in and of itself. So, the person will not be considered to be in status but will be considered to be authorized to stay in the US for the duration of the EAD. Such individuals would not be eligible to file for a change or adjustment of status until they leave the US and enter back using a valid visa.

6. After being granted the EAD, if I get a new job can I change my status back to H-1B?

As stated above since EAD does not give you any status, you cannot request for a change of status to H-1B. Hence, you will have to travel outside the US and enter back using H-1B visa.

7. What is the validity period of the EAD? Can it be renewed?

Compelling Circumstances EAD is valid for up to a year, but it can be renewed if you continue to face compelling circumstances and your priority date is still not current. In a situation when your priority date falls within one year or less of the final action date, you would be eligible to file a renewal of EAD even if the compelling circumstances cease to exist.

8. Can I start working after applying for the EAD or do I have to wait for the approval?

You have to wait for the approval and cannot start working until the EAD is approved.

9. How long does USCIS take to process the EAD application? Can it be expedited? Is there an option to file the application under premium process?

The current EAD processing time is over 6 months. Although premium processing is currently unavailable for EAD applications, USCIS has provided guidance on how to request expedited review.

10. Am I eligible to stay in the country while the application is pending with USCIS? What happens if my application is denied?

As long as you have filed a non-frivolous timely application, you are authorized to stay in the US while the EAD application is pending with USCIS. If your application is denied, you should plan to depart the US immediately.

11. I have been convicted of crime before. Am I eligible to apply for EAD?

Depending on the severity of the crime and the charges; you may or may not be eligible for the benefit. Felony convictions or more than two misdemeanors are a straight bar to the application. Make sure you discuss your criminal history with a qualified attorney before filing the application.

12. How can Somireddy Law Group help with my Compelling Circumstances EAD application?

Somireddy Law Group has successfully handled such cases. Our attorneys have experience in both Immigration and Criminal law and can assist you throughout the Compelling Circumstances EAD application process through personalized guidance, reviewing your eligibility, helping gather the necessary documentation, preparing your application, and address any concerns or questions that may arise during the process. Seeking professional help can greatly increase your chances of a successful application.

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