USCIS Issues Guidance on Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) Based on Compelling Circumstances

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released policy guidance outlining the eligibility criteria for both initial and renewal applications for employment authorization documents (EADs) in compelling circumstances, in accordance with existing regulatory requirements found at 8 CFR 204.5(p). 

To be eligible for an initial EAD based on compelling circumstances, an applicant must fulfill the following criteria: 

  1. The principal applicant is the primary beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, falling within the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd employment-based preference category. 
  2. 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 submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. 
  3. The principal applicant has not filed an adjustment of status application. 
  4. An immigrant visa is unavailable to the principal applicant based on their priority date, as per the relevant Final Action Date in the U.S. Department of State's Visa Bulletin when filing Form I-765. 
  5. The applicant and their dependents provide the required biometrics. 
  6. The applicant and their dependents have not been convicted of a felony or two or more misdemeanors. 
  7. USCIS exercises discretion in determining that the principal applicant demonstrates compelling circumstances justifying the issuance of employment authorization. 

The guidance covers compelling circumstances for both principal applicants and their dependents, presenting a non-exhaustive list of situations that could warrant a finding of compelling circumstances. Examples include serious illness and disability, employer dispute or retaliation, other substantial harm to the applicant, or significant disruption to the employer. 

Additionally, the guidance offers details on the evidence applicants can submit to demonstrate these compelling circumstances. For instance, a principal applicant with an approved immigrant visa petition in an oversubscribed category or chargeability area, who has lived in the United States for an extended period, could provide evidence such as school enrollment records, mortgage records, or long-term lease records to support the potential finding of compelling circumstances. This may include situations where job loss could force the family to sell their home at a loss, withdraw children from school, and relocate to their home country. 

For more information on compelling circumstances EADs, refer to the policy alert (PDF, 282.22 KB). Additionally, explore our resource on Options for Nonimmigrant Workers Following Termination of Employment for further insights on maintaining authorized stay in the United States. Provide feedback on this update through the Policy Manual Feedback page. 

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