What Can I Do While My Asylum Application Is Pending a USCIS Decision?

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 a long time without a decision are allowed to apply for employment authorization. The length of time was 150 days until August 25, 2020, when it changed to 365 days. The new regulations also added other bars to work-permit eligibility, such as unlawful entry to the U.S., a late-filed application for asylum, and a criminal record. Because of the complexities, and the fact that immigration advocates are suing over this new rule, your best bet is to get an attorney to help figure out whether you're eligible for a work permit and prepare the application.

In order to apply, you'd need to submit 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 and other documents (such as evidence of lawful U.S. entry) showing that you're eligible.

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.

See What Should I Do If My Address Changes While My Asylum Application Is Being Processed?.

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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