The onset and persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the shortage of healthcare workers in the United States, especially in rural areas. Periodic spikes in infection levels has sped burn-out among healthcare workers. There are many foreign nationals who can and do fill these healthcare roles including those in Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and others covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), individuals whose employment authorization derives from a separate Employment Authorization Document (EAD). However, tremendous processing backlogs at USCIS (of up to a year) to procure or renew an EAD have limited that availability. Recognizing the impact of these delays on foreign healthcare workers and the U.S. healthcare system, USCIS recently introduced a partial solution.

USCIS provides that healthcare workers with pending renewals (Forms I-765) can now request expedited processing where the worker’s current EAD must be expired or valid for only another 30 days or less. Those healthcare workers who qualify for this expedited route must appear on the DHS’ list of essential workers.

The list of essential healthcare workers appears on pages 7-9 of the DHS’ Advisory Memorandum on Ensuring Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers’ Ability to Work During the COVID-19 Response. The memorandum recognizes that it is essential for critical infrastructure workers to perform their jobs safely and securely throughout the pandemic. It identifies both covered essential industries and workers. The list of essential healthcare workers is extensive and includes COVID-19 researchers, various types of healthcare providers, and workers providing ancillary services (e.g., transportation, laundry, food services, and cybersecurity), certain vendors and manufacturers, home health workers, public health workers, and human services providers, among others.

To submit an expedite request, one should call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833). Individuals will need to provide evidence of their profession or their current employment as an eligible healthcare worker. Further, keep in mind that whether to grant an expedite request remains solely within USCIS’ discretion.

Please reach out to your Jackson Lewis attorney for any questions or advice regarding expediting EADs for essential healthcare workers.