How I Tracked My US Work Permit Application

How I Tracked My Work Permit Application

DISCLAIMER: I am not an immigration lawyer and this blog post does not provide legal advice. I am just explaining what I did to track my work permit application and how it worked for me.

Back in May 2019, I applied for a work permit for my US J-2 visa for the first time. Back then, everything was fine. No COVID-19, no pandemic. Within a week I got a receipt (or I-797 notice of action). It told you that my application was being processed.

Three months later, I got my EAD. There was no need to track my work permit application. Nothing that would justify stressing out about it.

And then came 2020 with COVID-19. I applied for a work permit renewal three months before my EAD would expire. It was the recommended time frame.

I thought that was enough. But then again, COVID restrictions and a surge in filing resulted in huge delays. Which was quite stressful. The issue is, I had no idea how to track my work permit application.

And when I started to find solutions, turns out I had still no way of knowing what was going on.

Sure my UPS tracking guaranteed that my application had been received by the lockbox. Yet, it seems that it was stuck in the mailroom. For over three  months.

So I needed to find a way to know where my work permit application was . Fortunately, there are a few ways to do so.

Below is a description of what I personally did to track my work permit application. I was in a situation where I had not receive a receipt I-797. As I understand it, tracking an application with a receipt is very easy. You just have to use your receipt number on the USCIS website.

1. Contact Emma

Emma is the USCIS’s AI programmed to answer any questions I may have. Sounds great, doesn’t it? I typed in my query and Emma sent me a few useful links.

Here “where is my I-765 application“.

The UPS tracking showed that my application has been received and signed for. Yet, I still had not received a receipt and notice of action. Basically the document proving that it is being processed.

As Emma suggested links, I clicked through to more information. Basically, the lockbox (where you send your application to) is meant to send a receipt within 30 days after receiving your application.

It is that receipt that should allow me to track my work permit application. But again, COVID restrictions and all, there was a huge backlog and I had no news. I did not receive a receipt. So, Emma suggested something else…

Sending an email to the lockbox I had sent my application to.

All in all, Emma was not actually able to give answers to my question. Because again, I did not have a receipt number. Yet, she still did nudge me in the right direction.

2. Send an email to the USCIS lockbox

Emma told me to email the lockbox if I had not receive a receipt. However, if my fee had been cashed, I should call directly. As I was in the former situation, I decided to email.

Now, I may not have been very smart in my email subject line. It did indeed feel like I wanted to know about the status of my application, i.e. approved or not. Rather than whether it was being processed.

I emailed a first time with an email subject line that was not super clear. Although the lockbox is meant to reply within 30 days, I never got a reply. Yup. Which, of course, did not help me relax.

So, I sent another email 30 days later. This time, I made very clear in the email subject line that I was enquiring about my application/petition. I.e. “Have you received it and is it in your system yet?”.

Still no answer. Even after 30 days. Bummer.

What was I to do? I  was not getting any reply to my email. Emma was not helping much. I had no indication as to whether my application had been processed or no.

No, let me correct that. I did have one indication. My payment had not been cashed yet.

To be honest, as the expiry date of my EAD came closer, it really was the first time ever I could not wait for the government to take my money.

It took me a while to figure out another way. But I did. Searching through the web, Googling and such. And although that last try was the most helpful, I do believe that most people do not know of it.

3. Contact your local congress representative

I get that it can be intimidating to do so. Especially as an immigrant. Because, after all, why would they bother helping you? Well, do go over that because as far as I am concerned, they have been the most helpful.

I found the information super randomly. It was so random, I cannot even recall how and where. But I did. And it advised to contact my local congress representative.

Which I did. The congresswoman for my post code had a website and a section where people struggling with immigration related applications could submit a request.

And yes, not knowing where your application is at enters in that category. I could either submit online or send a request in the mail. As with many things, online goes much faster.

I explained everything and gave as many information as I could. To be honest, that was not much since the only bit of information I had was the UPS tracking number and the proof of delivery.

I got a reply the next day. And a day after, the congresswoman’s office got in touch with USCIS on my behalf. My application was not in their system yet. It meant it had not been processed yet.

Which the congresswoman’s office reported to me. However, the lockbox also said that the moment they’d find my application, they would let the congresswoman’s office know. And they did. A not even a week later.

I do not know exactly what consequences contacting the congresswoman actually produced. It could have been a total coincidence. But the lockbox did send an update a few days after they were contacted. So, I do believe that it helped.

I cannot tell whether all congress representatives offer that help but if they do, it is worth asking. I was also told to not wait more than 30 days after reception to ask for help.

The lockbox is meant to send a receipt within 30 days. When the 30 days are up, it is time to ask for help. 

If you are waiting to hear back from an EAD application (or any immigration related enquiry), I hope my experience can help you get an answer to your questions. I know first hand how stressful it can all be.

How I Tracked My Work Permit Application

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Dealing with any administration can be super stressful. Especially in times like those. Obviously a pandemic is making everything much more complicated.

And sometimes, it can be hard to get the answers you need. So I hope sharing my experience will help a bit.

Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope you liked this post.

See you soon,


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