This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Loan Huynh, Fredrikson Immigration Department Chair, is a member.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released policy guidance on the eligibility criteria for initial and renewal applications for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in compelling circumstances. An applicant must meet the following eligibility requirements to be eligible for an initial EAD based on compelling circumstances:
- The principal applicant is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, in either the first, second, or third employment-based preference category;
- The principal applicant is in valid E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, O-1, or L-1 nonimmigrant status or an authorized grace period when they file the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization;
- The principal applicant has not filed an adjustment of status application;
- An immigrant visa is not available to the principal applicant based on the applicant's priority date according to the relevant Final Action Date in the Department of State's Visa Bulletin in effect when they file Form I-765;
- The applicant and dependents provide biometrics as required;
- The applicant and dependents have not been convicted of a felony or two or more misdemeanors; and
- USCIS determines, as a matter of discretion, that the principal applicant demonstrates compelling circumstances that justify the issuance of employment authorization.
The guidance provides a non-exhaustive list of situations that could lead to a finding that compelling circumstances exist, including serious illness and disability, employer dispute or retaliation, other substantial harm to the applicant, or significant disruption to the employer. The guidance also provides details on evidence an applicant could submit to demonstrate one of these compelling circumstances.