USCIS Waives Fingerprinting For DACA Work Permit Renewals

By Suzanne Monyak
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Law360 (March 30, 2020, 7:46 PM EDT) -- Young people living in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs may continue to renew their work permits despite U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' decision to scale back operations in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

USCIS said Monday it will waive its fingerprinting requirement to process requests to extend work authorization with the I-765 form and instead reuse the biometrics the agency already has on file, allowing recipients of the Obama-era deferred action program to renew their employment authorization while the agency's biometric processing centers are closed.

The agency has closed those centers to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and these updated procedures will remain in place until those centers reopen, the agency said.

Sarah Pierce, an immigration lawyer and policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said the announcement is "great news for DACA recipients," who she said are primarily affected by the biometrics requirement.

"I think this is the logical, fair thing to do," she said.

USCIS has relaxed a number of its immigration requirements over the past few weeks, as businesses shutter and people are forced to stay home to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

The agency has waived "wet ink" signature requirements on certain immigration forms, allowing electronic signatures instead, and postponed all in-person interviews and naturalization ceremonies.

On Friday, the agency gave employers and their attorneys an extra 60 days to respond to certain deficiency notices for visa applications received between March and May.

USCIS initially announced the extension for Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny, but on Monday, the agency clarified that the extra time also applies to Notices of Intent to Revoke and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers, as well as certain filing deadlines for administrative appeals.

Although the agency's latest announcement offers temporary reprieve for DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, the U.S. Supreme Court could rule any day on whether the Trump administration can end the program, which gives work permits and deportation relief to eligible unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

"This is welcomed news, but at the end of the day, the lives of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients continue to hang in the balance as Dreamers and their loved ones await a decision from the Supreme Court," said Leezia Dhalla, press director for FWD.us, a bipartisan political advocacy group.

The high court heard oral arguments in November and is expected to issue a ruling in the case by June.

Dhalla called on the Trump administration to pull its Supreme Court appeal and extend all DACA work permits expiring this year for another two years, and for Congress to prioritize this in its next relief package.

Additionally, foreigners working in the U.S. on soon-expiring temporary work visas remain in limbo, as USCIS has yet to waive the fingerprinting requirement for other forms, such as the I-539 for certain people on temporary work visas to revise or change their status. 

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security actually changed that form to require visa holders' spouses and children to submit biometrics as well, a change the department anticipated would affect 377,250 people.

"Yes, this is hugely beneficial to DACA recipients, but there are still hundreds of thousands of other immigrants around the country who need to submit biometrics," said Pierce.

--Editing by Stephen Berg.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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