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DHS Implements Extension and Expansion of Deferred Enforced Departure for Hong Kong, Extends Relaxed Employment Options for Hong Kong F-1 Students

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a Notice implementing the previously announced two-year extension and expansion of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Hong Kong residents though February 5, 2025, and defining the application process for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) and advance parole travel authorization under the program.  The DHS Notice also automatically extends Hong Kong DED-related EADs by two years, through February 5, 2025.  In a separate Notice, DHS has also extended the suspension of certain employment authorization rules for students from Hong Kong who are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the current crisis in Hong Kong.

A closer look

Following President Biden’s January 26 approval of a two-year extension and expansion of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Hong Kong residents, DHS has published a Notice in the Federal Register defining the eligibility criteria for the extended and expanded program and the related EAD and advance parole application process. The DED extension and redesignation provides eligible Hong Kong residents with temporary protection from removal and eligibility for employment authorization in the United States through February 5, 2025.  

Eligibility criteria

Pursuant to the DHS Notice, the extended and expanded grant of DED applies to certain Hong Kong residents who are present in the United States and who were covered by the initial grant of DED announced on August 5, 2021, as well as those who arrived in the U.S. after the initial grant of DED, and who have been continuously present in the United States since the President’s January 26, 2023 directive.  
Hong Kong residents who return to Hong Kong or other parts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) after January 26, 2023, have committed certain crimes, or present a national security threat, among others, may not be eligible under the program. 

Application for EAD and auto-extension of existing EADs

There is no application process for DED itself. An application is required only for work or travel authorization.  
Hong Kong DED beneficiaries seeking work authorization must file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and required fee (or request for fee waiver) with USCIS. EAD applicants may be required to undergo biometrics collection (fingerprinting). EADs will be valid until February 5, 2025. 
Previously issued Hong Kong DED EADs bearing a Category Code of “A11” and an expiration date of February 5, 2023 are considered covered by the DED extension under the January 26, 2023 presidential directive and are deemed automatically extended through February 5, 2025. The Federal Register notice provides specific instructions on proper completion of an I-9 form to reflect an automatically extended Hong Kong DED EAD. 

Application for travel authorization (advance parole)

Hong Kong DED beneficiaries must apply for advance parole travel authorization if they wish to travel outside the United States. Advance parole applicants must file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, and required fee, with USCIS. The advance parole application may be filed concurrently with an EAD application, or separately. 

Background on DED and its related benefits

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) is not a specific immigration status but rather is a discretionary grant of protection that can be issued only by the President of the United States, as part of the President’s constitutional power to conduct foreign relations. It is used in very limited instances.  
Individuals covered by DED are not subject to removal from the United States during the designated DED period and typically may request employment authorization during the designation period. Currently, in addition to Hong Kong residents, Liberian nationals are also eligible for DED. 

Extension of relaxed employment rules for certain F-1 students from Hong Kong

Separately, DHS is renewing its suspension of certain employment authorization rules for F-1 students who are residents of Hong Kong and who are experiencing severe economic hardship as a result of the crisis in Hong Kong. The relaxed employment authorization rules for such students, which were set to expire on February 5, 2023, have been extended through February 5, 2025. 
Under the relaxed rules, qualifying Hong Kong residents in F-1 student status may request employment authorization, work an increased number of hours while school is in session, and reduce their course load, while continuing to maintain their F-1 nonimmigrant student status. DHS will deem students who obtain employment authorization under this policy to be engaged in a “full course of study” if the student maintains the minimum course load set forth in the Federal Register notice extending the policy. 
To qualify, F-1 students must establish that they:  

  • Are Hong Kong residents, regardless of country of birth;  
  • Were lawfully present in the United States in F-1 status on January 26, 2023; 
  • Are enrolled in an academic institution that is Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified; 
  • Are currently maintaining F-1 status; and 
  • Are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the current crisis in Hong Kong. 

F-1 students who receive authorization from their Designated School Official (DSO) to work off campus may apply for an EAD by submitting the required Form I-765 application and corresponding fee (or fee waiver request) to USCIS. F-1 students employed on campus do not need to apply for an EAD but do require DSO authorization. 

Looking ahead

Hong Kong residents currently in the United States who believe they are eligible for DED and wish to obtain work or travel authorization should apply according to the instructions contained in today’s Federal Register Notice
Prior to the conclusion of the two-year extension of Hong Kong DED on February 5, 2025, the White House will review conditions in Hong Kong to determine whether a further extension of DED is appropriate. 
Hong Kong residents in F-1 student status should contact their school’s DSO to determine whether they can avail themselves of the relaxed employment authorization standards. 

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