MARCH 2011
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Immigration

NEW, COMBINED EAD/ADVANCE PAROLE CARD FOR I-485 ADJUSTMENT APPLICANTS ANNOUNCED BY USCIS

Dilip Patel

By DILIP PATEL
(www.dplawfirm.com)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it is now issuing a single, dual-purpose card combining the employment authorization document (EAD) and advance parole travel authorization for certain applicants who have pending family- or employment-based adjustment of status applications (Form I-485). This is welcome news and a significant improvement from the current practice of issuing the two documents separately — often at different times. For many adjustment applicants, the inability to plan travel abroad during the pendency of their advance parole application produces great consternation. Now, adjustment applicants can plan travel with more predictability because issuance of the new card presumably will be governed by the 90-day regulatory period for employment authorization documents (EADs). Under current regulations, EADs must be issued within 90 days from the time of filing, but no corresponding regulation mandates the issuance of advance parole.

Under this new policy, applicants may receive the combined card when they file both an application for employment authorization (Form I-765) and an application for travel document (Form I-131). Both forms must be filed at the same time to receive the new card.

For those who already have an EAD and a separate travel document with a different expiration date, USCIS advises, applicants may receive the new card only if both documents have less than 120 days of validity left or if the EAD has less than 120 days of validity left and the advance parole document is for a single entry only. Those wishing to apply for the new card are advised to wait until they are within 120 days of the expiration of their current work authorization card. The validity period for the combined card will begin on the date both applications are adjudicated. The fee for the card, if applied for separately from the adjustment application, is $740. Not all applicants are eligible for the combined card, and USCIS advises that it will continue to issue separate EADs and advance parole documents as warranted.

As with the current advance parole document, obtaining a combined advance parole and employment authorization card allows an adjustment applicant to travel abroad and return to the United States without abandoning his or her pending adjustment application. Upon returning to the United States, the individual must present the card to request parole through the port-of-entry. The decision to parole the individual is made at the port-of-entry.

The new card will look similar to the current EAD but will include text, “Serves as I-512 Advance Parole.” The card is obviously more secure and more durable than the paper advance parole document currently in use.

FAMILY-BASED IMMIGRANT VISA BACKLOGS CONTINUE TO INCREASE

Close family members of green card holders and U.S. citizens, who already are used to the long queue for their visas, will now have to wait even longer. The March 2011 Visa Bulletin, the official Department of State publication establishing visa availability and cut-off dates, reports that heavy demand for visa numbers has required categories to continue to retrogress. The Family F2A category (spouses and children of lawful permanent residents) has been particularly impacted, with a cut-off date of Jan. 1, 2007, for all countries except Mexico (where the cut-off date is Jan. 1, 2006). Compare these dates to the cut-off in December 2010, when the F2A category was at Aug. 1, 2010, for all countries expect Mexico.

On the employment-based side, no significant changes are reported in the March Visa Bulletin, with numbers slowly inching forward for most categories. Still, professional visas remain seriously backlogged — more than five to eight years — and master-level visas remain backlogged for more than five years for foreign nationals from India and China.

Only Congress has the authority to reduce these long, long waits through ameliorative legislation. How long can America expect these highly skilled professionals to wait? How long can close family members be separated?

Dilip Patel of Dilip Patel Law Firm (Business and Immigration Attorneys) is board certified in immigration and nationality law. He can be reached at (813) 855-0066, e-mail dpatel@dplawfirm.com or visit www.dplawfirm.com

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