How to Apply for a Work Permit While Awaiting an Asylum Decision

When and how an asylum applicant can apply for a work permit on USCIS Form I-765.

By , Attorney

You are allowed to work in the U.S. as an asylum applicant if you are lucky enough to have the timing work out. The rules on this have are in a state of upheaval, however. For details, see When Can Asylum Applicants Get a Work Permit (EAD Card)?.

If you meet the timing requirements, 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.

NOTE FOR PEOPLE ALREADY APPROVED FOR ASYLUM: If you are an approved asylee, you don't need to apply for an EAD. 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, that office might initiate the process of preparing an EAD for you. It 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.

Filling Out EAD Application (Form I-765)

You can access Form I-765 for free either on the USCIS website or by calling the Contact Center at 800-375-5283 to have one mailed to you.

When filling out Form I-765, make sure to first read the instructions that accompany it. Write clearly and in black ink if you do not have access to a computerized form.

If you fail to answer even one relevant question on the form, the entire EAD application could 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.

On Question 27, you must indicate your eligibility category (that is, why you are eligible for a work permit). Enter (c)(8). Attach a copy of the USCIS notice saying it received your asylum application or other evidence that you had filed your asylum application with USCIS or the Immigration Court.

(As a side note, people granted refugee status should mark category (a)(3) and attach either a copy of their Form I-590 (Registration for Classification as Refugee) approval letter or of Form I-730 (Relative Petition) approval notice; and people granted asylum should mark category (a)(5) and attach a copy of the USCIS letter or an immigration judge's decision granting asylum.)

If you're still seeing the 08/25/20 version of the form on the USCIS website, you'll need to fill out a complicated set of questions in Part 2 beginning at Question 30.b, but don't worry: Your answers here no longer count. This series of questions reflects the Trump Administration's attempt to create barriers to asylum seekers getting work permits, but these regulations have since been undone (and the form should be revised in mid-2022).

When you're ready, you must file your EAD application with the following supporting documents:

  • a copy of Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record), if you have one
  • any other proof of lawful entry, if applying based on a pending application
  • copies of any court dispositions for criminal convictions, if applying based on a pending application (and definitely consult with an attorney if you have a criminal record)
  • a copy of your last EAD (if applying for a renewal or replacement EAD)
  • if you do not have a Form I-94 or previous EAD, a copy of a government-issued identity document with your picture, name, and date of birth (such as a passport, national ID document, 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

The filing fee for an EAD is $410, plus $85 for biometrics, but check the I-765 instructions before submitting your application to make sure you have included the appropriate fees.

Even the fee issue has gotten mired in litigation. Earlier, USCIS tried to raise the fee for an I-765 to $550. However, a court injunction in a case called ILRC v. Wolf put those plans on hold until further notice. In addition, USCIS started charging a biometrics services fee to asylum EAD applicants ($85). Members of a class action lawsuit called Casa de Maryland (described here) can avoid it through a separate injunction.

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, you will also need to pay the filing fee.

You might be able to apply for a fee waiver so that you do not have to pay the filing fee. See Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, on the USCIS website. You'll send it along with your I-765, in place of the fee. If it's approved, you won't have to pay any fee.

Where to File Form I-765 for EAD

The address to which you will need to submit your complete EAD application will depend on where you live. Make a copy to keep in your records, then send your EAD application with all the supporting documents (and with the fee, if applicable) to a location specified on the USCIS website.

What Happens After You Submit Form I-765

Check USCIS's case status page to monitor the agency's action on your EAD application. Unfortunately, this could take several months. In the past, immigration regulations gave USCIS a 30-day deadline for asylum applicant, but in 2020 USCIS removed that provision.

If the delays go past USCIS's normal processing times without explanation, call the USCIS Contact Center or submit an online case inquiry.

If your EAD application is approved, you will be mailed your EAD. If it is denied, USCIS will send 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 it, look at its expiration date, written on the front. That date specifies how long you are authorized to work in the United States. You can (and should) apply for EAD renewal well 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 USCIS typically will not allow people file for a renewal EAD more than 120 days before their original EAD expires.

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