What Can I Do While My Asylum Application Is Pending?

Both U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Immigration Courts (EOIR) are extremely backlogged. Thus it can years for them to process or issue decisions in both affirmative asylum and defensive asylum cases.

Question

It feels like I submitted my application for asylum so long ago and I still haven’t gotten a decision. I’m wondering if I can do anything while I am waiting? I was thinking about taking a college course or getting a job. Also, am I allowed to move somewhere else within the United States?

Answer

Both U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Immigration Courts (EOIR) are extremely backlogged. Thus it can years for them to process or issue decisions in both affirmative asylum applications (the kind you file on your own) and defensive asylum cases (the kind you raise during removal proceedings in immigration court).

You will definitely want to plan your activities during this long wait.

Applying for a work permit

People with pending asylum applications or cases who have been waiting for 150 days or more without a decision are allowed to apply for employment authorization.

You can do this by submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization along with the receipt notice showing the date when your Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal was received by either the Immigration Court or USCIS.

However, keep in mind that any actions that you take to delay the process—such as requesting a continuance of a hearing or rescheduling an interview—will “stop the clock” and might add days to the time by which you are able to apply for a work permit. (See How to Apply for a Work Permit While Awaiting an Asylum Decision for more information.)

Attending school

Since you are legally authorized to remain in the U.S. while your asylum case is pending, you should be able to attend higher education classes as well, though you might not be eligible for certain internship or work study programs in which students in the U.S. on an F-1 student visa can participate.

Also, it will be up to the college or university whether or not to grant you in-state tuition rates or to allow you to take courses for credit.

Moving within the U.S.

You can also move to another location within the U.S. while your asylum application is pending, but be sure to notify either USCIS or the immigration court of your change of address as soon as possible. This may also delay the processing of your application or case.

If your case is in immigration court, you will also need to file a Motion to Change Venue if you are moving outside the jurisdiction of that court. Consult with an immigration attorney to help you do this.

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