USCIS may be close to negotiating an agreement that would mean EADs for thousands of foreign nationals with approved applications will finally start to be produced.
Yet, first-time EAD applicants who are in H-4 or L-2 status may still face impediments. In March, when the COVID-19 crisis began and USCIS offices closed, the Application Support Centers (ACS) had to reschedule biometrics appointments. The biometrics appointment is essential and a precondition to USCIS issuing a final determination. Although USCIS agreed to reuse previously submitted biometrics to expedite processing, first-time applicants (or applicants who were not previously required to submit biometrics) had no recourse but to wait.
When ASCs started to reopen in June, individuals with appointments were subject to COVID-19 precautions, including face coverings (which may be removed for identification or photographing purposes) and social distancing. These limitations have resulted in ASCs limiting the number of daily appointments. It appears that some individuals have been told that appointments will not be available until October.
It is reported that during a three-week period, starting in mid-July, ASCs completed approximately 74,000 biometrics appointments. But on an average day pre-COVID-19, 14,000 were photographed and fingerprinted across all the field offices and ASCs. So, the backlog continues and the possibility that USCIS may furlough two-thirds of its workforce by the end of August will only exacerbate the problem.
Those who do get appointments for biometrics, interviews, or naturalization ceremonies must remember to comply with the current USCIS Visitor Policy:
- Wear face coverings;
- Follow signage related to social distancing;
- Be aware that USCIS is placing specific limits on those who can accompany applicants with scheduled appointments; and
- Do not bring or invite guests to naturalization ceremonies.
Individuals will not be allowed to enter a USCIS office if they:
- Are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19;
- Have had close contact within the last 14 days with a person known or suspected to have COVID-19;
- Have been instructed by a healthcare provider to public health authority to isolate or self-quarantine with the last 14 days; or
- Refuse to wear a face covering in accordance with USCIS policy.
USCIS asks anyone who feels sick to reschedule their appointments.