USCIS Delays Create New Opportunities for Asylum Applicants to Obtain Work Permits--After Another Delay

Backlogs at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services trigger right to asylum applicants' obtaining employment authorization.

There's some good news and some bad news for asylum applicants who are seeking permission to work in the United States.

First, the good news. Owing to a current backlog of approximately 85,000 asylum applications at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the resulting long waits for interviews at the Asylum Office and (in some cases) subsequent hearings in Immigration Court, many applicants are becoming eligible for employment authorization documents (also called EADs or work permits) who might not have been, back when matters moved more quickly.

The key to becoming eligible for an EAD is that applicants have waited longer than 150 days with no decision on their application. They may submit the EAD application once the 150 days have passed. USCIS will not actually issue the EAD for another 30 days (at a minimum), so that the applicant wil have waited at least 180 days before receiving it.

Now, the bad news. With an increase in the number of people applying for EADs (on USCIS Form I-765) the wait time for EAD approval is also increasing. USCIS says it is making efforts to clear the backlog, including hiring new officers for this purpose; but the hiring and training process is bound to also take time.

If you have just applied for asylum, the message is to keep a careful eye on the calendar, get your EAD application in as soon as 150 days have passed with your case still pending, and don't count on being able to start work immediately!