USCIS and Their Nonsense: Work Card Edition

Ugh. Some days USCIS makes me want to scream. Today’s frustration comes in the form of work cards. As you know, work cards (also known as EADs or Employment Authorization Documents) are very important to people. With them, people can lawfully work and support their families, they can obtain a driver’s license, they can get a Social Security number and it also serves as valid photo ID.

Up until about a year ago, most work cards were produced about 90 days from the time of filing. Then we started to see the wait grow and grow. We had some work cards take eight months or more to get produced. People are in the U.S. lawfully while they’re waiting (if they’ve applied for adjustment of status, asylum or other various immigration benefits), yet they can’t contribute to their household or to their communities. It’s an extremely frustrating position to be in.

Our client, Karen, and her son applied for asylum earlier this year. In July, they moved and we updated their address using an online AR-11. We received confirmation numbers for both change of address submissions. In late August, Karen and her son’s work cards were approved. She was so excited – she was going to start working, driving her son to and from school – it was going to be a big change on their journey to independence and freedom in the United States.

Last week, Karen’s son received his work card, his approval notice from USCIS, and his Social Security card. Karen received her approval notice and her Social Security card, but no work card. We obtained the tracking number from USCIS and her work card was returned to their office. They sent it to the old address! How do five out of six pieces of correspondence get the correct address placed on them, but one randomly has a bad address? I called the National Customer Service Center and they said that the AR-11 doesn’t always update across platforms and they saw it for Karen’s son, but not for Karen (they found it after I provided the confirmation number, though).

You would think that USCIS could simply resend the card to the new address. You would think it’d be easy. You would be wrong.

USCIS told me that it would be SIX MONTHS before they would be able to send the work card back out to the correct address. My client does everything right and her work card (which she is legally entitled to and is the key to her self-sufficiency in the US), is going to be essentially collecting dust on a shelf for half a year. Why? Are their so many work cards that get returned? So few officers to process and double-check addresses? Or does USCIS simply not care about helping people? Are they doing everything they can to stymie the process so people give-up and go home?

I don’t know why it’s going to take six months, but I know it’s ridiculous.

-Tracie