• Work Permit Backlog to be Cleared by February 16; New Processing Time Standards Implemented
  • January 30, 2014
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • The current backlog of pending work permit applications should be addressed by February 16, 2014, the Director of the Department of Immigration Services (DIS) has announced. In addition, DIS has established new standard time frames for work permit processing in an effort to prevent future backlogs after that date.

    The new service level standards require DIS to adjudicate a work permit application within two months of filing and a renewal application within one month of filing. A fast-track procedure for urgent applications may be introduced, though no details of this procedure have been released. In practice, some applications may take longer to process, as DIS does not handle the criminal background check aspect of the work permit application process.

    The DIS Approvals Committee, which issues the final decision on each work permit application, will meet twice as often in order to clear the backlog. The backlog resulted from a suspension of DIS services, from July to September 2013, to conduct an internal audit and investigation of alleged incidences of corruption.

    The DIS Director also refuted recent press reports that work permits would no longer be renewable after two years but confirmed that proof of training provided to Kenyan nationals would continue to be the primary requirement for work permit applications. Work permit holders are expected to train a Kenyan national to eventually assume their role, but the Director acknowledged that this requirement could be waived in special cases.

    Kenyan employers have generally welcomed the Director’s comments as satisfactorily addressing concerns related both to work permit processing times and recent press speculation of a maximum two-year period for work authorization. Even if, however, an identified Kenyan national trainee is not required for a particular work permit application, there are concerns about the policy’s implementation and consistent application in practice, particularly by lower-level DIS officials who may exercise considerable discretion when adjudicating the applications.

    What This Means for Employers

    Employers with delayed work permit applications should see relief in the coming weeks as the backlogged cases are adjudicated, and their foreign national employees should obtain employment authorization shortly. In addition, the Director’s comments appear to indicate that DIS is committed to reducing processing times while remaining realistic regarding external factors that could affect certain applications.