How to Apply for a Work Permit While Awaiting an Asylum Decision
As an asylum applicant, you are allowed to work in the U.S. if either:
- you were granted asylum (or received “recommended approval” for a grant of asylum), or
- you had applied for asylum at least 150 days ago and still have not received an initial decision on your asylum application.
(For more information about eligibility to work based on an asylum application, see When Can Asylum Applicants Get a Work Permit?.)
Under the first scenario, if you are an approved asylee, you do not need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (also called an EAD or work permit). It is enough for you to apply for a Social Security card, and present this to employers. Nevertheless, if you are approved by the Asylum Office, it may initiate the process of preparing an EAD for you. And an EAD is a handy form of photo identification, so pursuing one is a good idea. (If the Asylum Office doesn't start the process for you, see Granted Asylum Status in the U.S.: When You'll Get Your Asylum Documents for what to do next.)
Under the second work-permit eligibility category, you MUST file Form I-765 in order to apply for an EAD before you start working. Your EAD will authorize you to work in the United States for a specified period of time. You can file Form I-765 if 150 days have passed since your asylum application was received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (for affirmative applicants) or since your defensive application was "lodged" in Immigration Court (if applying while in removal proceedings).
Calculating Whether 150 Days Have Passed Since Filing Your Asylum Application
Calculating whether 150 days have elapsed since you filed your asylum application can be complicated. Because there is a long backlog in processing asylum applications, it is likely that you will not receive an asylum decision within 150 days. The 150-day “clock” is active as long as any delays in the processing of your application are not caused by you.
So, for example, if you decline an expedited asylum hearing in Immigration Court or request that your asylum interview be rescheduled, the clock will stop on the day of your request. Any delays caused by the government do not stop the clock. Asylum applicants in removal proceedings can call the Immigration Court case status hotline (800-898-7180) and get a detailed explanation of where they are in the 150-day asylum clock schedule.
For a more detailed discussion of how to calculate the 150-day period, see Timing of the Affirmative Asylum Application Process.
Filling Out EAD Application (Form I-765)
You can access Form I-765 for free in one of two ways:
- online at www.uscis.gov (click the “Forms” link and scroll down to Form I-765) or
- by calling the National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 to have the form mailed to you.
When filling out Form I-765, make sure to first read the instructions that accompany the form. Write clearly and in black or blue ink if you do not have access to a computerized form. Note that if you fail to answer even one question on the form, the entire EAD application will be returned to you to revise and resubmit. So, if there is no answer to a question or a question does not apply to you, write “N/A” (“not applicable”) or “None” in the answer space for that question. Do not leave any spaces blank.
The form is very short and self-explanatory. Make sure to accurately fill out Question 16. In this question, you must indicate your eligibility category (that is, why you are eligible for a work permit). Enter only one category. The ones that pertain to asylum are as follows:
- If you were granted refugee status: Mark category (a)(3). Also make sure to attach either a copy of your Form I-590 (Registration for Classification as Refugee) approval letter or a copy of Form I-730 (Relative Petition) approval notice.
- If you were granted asylum: Mark category (a)(5). Attach a copy of the USCIS letter or an immigration judge’s decision granting your asylum.
- If you have applied for asylum and your application has been pending for more than 150 days or if you received a "recommended approval letter" from USCIS: Mark category (c)(8). Attach a copy of the USCIS notice saying that it received your asylum application or other evidence that you had filed your asylum application with USCIS or with the Immigration Court.
You must file your EAD application with the following supporting documents:
- a copy of Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record)
- a copy of your last EAD (if you are applying for a renewal or replacement EAD), or a copy of another government-issued identity document (such as a passport, birth certificate, state ID card, or a visa), and
- two identical passport-style color photographs of yourself taken within 30 days of filing your EAD application. Make sure to lightly print your name and Alien Number on the back of the photos.
Whether to Include a Filing Fee With Form I-765
Whether you have to submit a payment with your EAD application depends on two factors: what your eligibility category is and whether you are filing for EAD for the first time.
If you are a refugee (eligibility category (a)(3)), an asylee (category (a)(5)), or an asylum applicant (category (c)(8)) AND you are filing for your first EAD, there is no filing fee. Because EADs have specific expiration dates, you will probably need to file for a renewal EAD at a later point. When applying for a renewal EAD, even if you are in one of these three eligibility categories, you will need to pay the filing fee. As of early 2016, it is $380 (check the Forms page of the USCIS website for the latest). You may apply for a fee waiver, however: See Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, on the USCIS website.
Where to File Form I-765 and Supporting Documents
The address to which you will need to submit your complete EAD application will depend on your eligibility category and/or on where you live.
If you are a refugee, have been granted asylum, or have an asylum application that has been pending for more than 150 days (that is, if you meet eligibility categories (a)(3), (a)(5), or (c)(8)), you will need to file your EAD application with all the supporting documents (and with the fee, if applicable) to a location based on where you live. Currently, that is either in Phoenix or in Dallas. Refer to the Instructions for Form I-765 for the most current addresses.
Finally, before submitting your EAD application, make sure to make a copy for you to keep.
What Happens After You Submit Form I-765
You should receive a decision on your EAD application within 90 days of USCIS’s receipt of your EAD application (or within 30 days if you are an asylum applicant). If the USCIS does not decide on your EAD application within 90 days (or within 30 days if you are an asylum applicant), you may request an interim EAD at your local USCIS office.
If your EAD application is approved, you will be mailed your EAD around the same time. If USCIS denies your application, you will receive a notice explaining the reason. You cannot appeal the denial. However, you may submit a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider with the office that made the decision. If you need to do that, you might want to consult an attorney.
Your EAD will be the size of a state driver’s license or a credit card. It will have your picture on it and some identifying information. When you receive your EAD, make sure to look at its expiration date, written on the front of your card. That date specifies how long you are authorized to work in the United States. You can (and should) apply for EAD renewal before your expiration date as long as you continue to fit into one of the eligibility categories. The categories do not need to be the same for each of your EAD applications. For example, you might file your initial EAD application as an asylum applicant (category (c)(8)), and your renewal EAD application as an asylee (category (a)(5)).
To apply for renewal, submit a new Form I-765. Note that you cannot file for a renewal EAD more than 120 days before your original EAD expires.