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Compelling Circumstances Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Option Explained

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An employment authorization document (EAD) is a coveted benefit allowing many immigants to work legally in the United States. For example, applicants for asylum, temporary protected status, F-1 or M-1 student optional practical training, adjustment of status, DACA, and many others can get an EAD that allows work for stated periods of time.

On January 17, 2017, the USCIS added two new categories for an EAD based upon “compelling circumstances.” Those eligible are beneficiaries of approved Form I-140s who are in the United States in E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, or O-1 nonimmigrant status and their dependent spouses and children. To qualify, the applicant’s priority date must not be current per the Final Action Date chart in the most recent Visa Bulletin.

The compelling cirumstances EAD could be an option if you are unable to maintain your current nonimmigrant work visa for reasons beyond your control, but it has many drawbacks to consider:

  1. The acceptance of compelling circumstances is highly subjective since the government hasn’t really defined the situations that qualify. According to the USCIS, these types of evidence that might satsify this requirement: “medical documentation to show you or your dependent are facing a serious illness or disability; evidence that your employer has retaliated against you; evidence of other substantial harm to you; evidence of significant disruption to the employer; or other evidence that demonstrates you are experiencing compelling circumstances.”
  2. If you are approved, you will get one year EAD and will need to re-apply each year while you can get up to three years on an H-1B or other work visa.
  3. If you are approved, you will not have an valid immigration status but you are allowed to stay and work as long as EAD is valid. This means, that once your priority date becomes current and you are finally eligible for the green card approval, you could be required to leave the U.S. and apply for the immigrant visa at the embassy, rather than apply for adjustment of status in the U.S.

The compelling circumstances EAD is a complicated application and the approval rate is unpredictable. If you believe you may be eligible for a compelling circumstances EAD, you should consult with an immigration attorney.

This information is provided as an educational service. For immigration advice and assistance with your EAD application or other immigration matters, contact us to meet with Ann Massey Badmus or one of our qualified attorneys.

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