Getting a work permit as an asylum applicant

As an asylum applicant in the United States, you may be eligible to apply for a work permit known as the Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). Before 1994, asylum seekers were able to receive EADs on arrival to the United States. This is no longer the case however.

There are two ways to apply for an EAD now: you must win your asylum case or you must wait six months / 150 filing days.

Winning Your Asylum Case

Once you win your asylum case and receive a grant of asylum, you are no longer required to even apply for an EAD. Upon winning the case, you are automatically granted a social security number, which can be used to apply for employment in the United States. Some clients choose to apply for an EAD regardless because it provides a form of federal identification.

However, for many asylum clients, this path isn’t the best option. The reason for this is because the asylum process can be complicated and time consuming. Thus, many will find that the best method for them is the Six Month Waiting Period.

The Six Month Waiting Period

Because many applicants often have to wait months, if not years, for a decision to be made, the six month waiting period is a better option for them if they wish to work.

If an applicant has to wait more than 180 days to hear an initial decision on their asylum case, the applicant is entitled to apply for EADs. At 150 days after filing an asylum claim, the applicant may apply for an EAD by filing an I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. The USCIS then has 30 days to approve your application. At the 180 day mark, the asylum applicant may be granted a work permit. There is no filing fee for the first work permit under the (c)(8)—it is typically valid for 2 years. Thereafter, USCIS currently charges $410 for additional EADs (this filing fee may go up soon).

However, there are certain events which could stop the 150 day clock for the applicant:

  1. Failure to appear at your interview or fingerprint appointment
  2. Failure to receive and acknowledge your asylum decision in person (if required)
  3. A request to reschedule your interview for a later date
  4. A request to transfer your case to a new asylum office or interview location, including when the transfer is based on a new address
  5. A request to provide additional evidence after your interview
  6. Failure to provide a competent interpreter at your interview

 It is very challenging to start the 150 clock back up once it has been stopped, and will likely require the assistance of an attorney to do so. Recently, the Trump Administration has proposed extending the six month 180 waiting period to a full calendar year waiting period of 365 days. Although this proposal has not yet gone into effect, it should serve as a warning to get your asylum application in as soon as possible to start the clock!