Until recently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allowed applicants for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) to contact USCIS after 75 days to initiate a service request if they had not received their EAD. Following updates to the USCIS processing times and case inquiry procedures this year, this option no longer exists.
Now applicants must review current processing times, available at https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/home, to determine if their application submission date (from the I-797 Receipt Notice) is before the “Case inquiry date” posted on the website. Only if the submission date is before the inquiry date will USCIS accept an online or telephone inquiry concerning the application’s status. The inquiry process then should result, at least in theory, in USCIS reviewing the application within the overall posted processing times, which can range from just a few weeks to several months. For most EAD applications, the currently posted range is 2.5 – 5 months.
The background behind the 75-day inquiry procedure is regulatory. Previously, there was a provision that required USCIS to adjudicate EAD applications within 90 days. USCIS implemented the 75-day inquiry to allow applicants to notify USCIS that their applications were “approaching the regulatory period” and thereby ensure adjudication within 90 days. In January 2017, a new regulation went into effect that eliminated the 90-day adjudication period. Nonetheless, USCIS continued to accept inquiries after 75 days. In many cases, it helped to get the application approved in several weeks. Now it appears USCIS is catching up its inquiry procedures to account for the lack of a mandated processing timeframe.
All USCIS processing times are the source of much bewilderment and frustration. Until the last year or two, USCIS approved most EAD applications within two to three months. Over the last year, that has extended to up to six months in many cases. Fortunately, it appears that the processing time is trending down toward three months, at least for the moment.