Today’s article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Welcome to come, but not to work: Ukrainians fleeing war can’t get job permits in the U.S., highlights a critical problem facing hundreds of thousands of recent arrivals to the United States: the lack of ability to work legally. This is not only a crisis for Ukrainians — it is a major problem for Afghans and others seeking refuge in the United States from war, violence, and persecution in numerous countries. 

Ukrainians, Afghans, and over a million others face a processing delay of 8-13 months for employment authorization, thanks to an unprecedented backlog of work permit applications. Bloomberg Law reported in May that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had more than 1.5 million pending applications for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) according to data released for the first quarter of fiscal year 2022. That’s only a portion of the 5.2 million total applications in the USCIS processing queue as of June 2022, a figure released by the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman in her annual report to Congress.

This issue goes beyond the obvious economic impact of not being able to provide shelter and necessities for oneself and one’s children and/or elderly parents. This issue puts countless vulnerable individuals and families in communities across America at risk for exploitation, victimization, domestic abuse, and even human trafficking.

To help address this nightmare, the Ukraine Immigration Task Force has proposed a temporary solution that would help not only Ukrainians but also Afghans and individuals from other countries admitted on humanitarian parole. Rather than calling for recent arrivals to bypass the agency’s (preferred) standard application process, our proposal would function within the current regulatory framework by asking USCIS to adjust its procedures within the existing application process to temporarily grant conditional employment authorization to Ukrainians, Afghans, and others granted humanitarian parole. 

Read more about this in the article, Welcome to come, but not to work: Ukrainians fleeing war can’t get job permits in the U.S.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash.