What is the basis of the Edakunni lawsuit?

Photo by Beatriz Pérez Moya on Unsplash

101 spouses of H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrant workers filed a lawsuit against Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), alleging that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unlawfully delayed adjudication of their H-4 status extensions, H-4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications, and L-2 status extensions and unlawfully withheld L-2 EADs. This lawsuit was settled to “resolve the claims…without need for further litigation…” The settlement agreement reinstates the bundling of certain petitions and is valid for 2 years. 

What is bundling?

Bundling is a term that is used to refer to the USCIS practice of adjudicating all petitions contained in the same package for the same family at the same time. USCIS officials have stated in depositions related to this lawsuit that bundling is more efficient for their work.

Which petitions are eligible for bundling?

According to the settlement agreement, petitions for dependent families of H-1B and L-1 visa holders are eligible for bundling. This means that Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, could be adjudicated in as little as 15 days if the underlying H-1B or L-1 petition is premium processed. This is a significant reduction in processing time – in February 2023, the processing time for an L-2 EAD was approximately 9 months. For Forms I-539 and I-765 to qualify for bundling, they must be packaged together with the primary Form I-129 petition and must be filed at the location consistent with the Form I-129 filing instructions.

Why did bundling stop?

A change in USCIS policies under the Trump administration caused the processing times for I-539 and I-765 petitions to increase exponentially. These changes included requiring H-4 dependents to supply biometrics before their petitions could be adjudicated. Plaintiffs in the related Kolluri lawsuit alleged that this new policy was designed to cause H-4 spouses to lose work authorization as biometrics for H-4 EAD renewals did not serve a legitimate purpose. The Edakunni settlement agreement directly states that DHS denies that USCIS has unlawfully delayed the adjudication of Forms I-539 or I-765. 

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