DHS Settles Class Action with Nonimmigrant Worker Spouses Over Processing Delays of Visas and EADs

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has settled a class action lawsuit that a class of nonimmigrant worker spouses initially filed in early 2021 over processing delays of their visas and work permits. The spouses claimed that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unreasonably delayed adjudicating their nonimmigrant H-4 and L-2 visa extensions and their H-4 Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). EADs allow the individuals, as dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants, lawfully work in the U.S. while residing here.

In the settlement agreement, USCIS agreed to process the spouses’ applications along with their underlying I-129 petitions for a nonimmigrant worker, which were filed simultaneously. The agreement restores the process as it was before March 2019, when the Trump administration created a rule mandating all I-539s to have biometrics. The rule caused the separation of spouses’ applications from the I-129 petitions filed at the same time, thus leading to delays that often lasted one year to eighteen months in duration.

The settlement follows the district court judge’s denial of both parties’ summary judgment motions in July 2022. The judge thereafter granted the class of spouses leave to conduct limited discovery, which led to the federal government offering a settlement. In addition, USCIS officials had admitted in depositions both in a previous case and in this case that adjudicating the spouses’ applications along with the concurrently filed I-129 petitions was more efficient.

The case is Edakunni et al. v. Mayorkas, case number 2:21-cv-00393, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

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