Most Asylum Seekers Won't Qualify for Work Permits Under New USCIS Rules

USCIS announces new rules that change which asylum applicants are eligible for a work permit and when.

** LEGAL UPDATE **

On June 22, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new rule that increases the amount of time asylum applicants must wait before applying for a work permit (also called “employment authorization” or EAD) and prevents certain asylum applicants, particularly those with crimes on record, from being eligible for a work permit at all.

The new rule is scheduled to take effect August 25, 2020.

Ineligibility based on application timing. Before this rule, asylum applicants were eligible to apply for a work permit after their asylum application had been on file with U.S. immigration authorities for 150 days and were eligible to actually receive a work permit after the application had been on file 180 days. Under the new rule, an asylum applicant must wait 365 days to apply for a work permit. If the asylum application is denied before 365 days have passed, the applicant will not be eligible for a work permit at all. If the asylum application is denied while the application for a work permit is pending with USCIS, the work permit application will also be denied.

Ineligibility based on criminal behavior. The new rule prohibits asylum applicants who have been convicted of certain crimes from receiving a work permit. Additionally, if USCIS has “serious reason to believe” the asylum applicant committed a serious non-political crime outside the United States, the asylum applicant will not be eligible to receive a work permit.

Ineligibility based on late-filed application. The new rule also prohibits an asylum applicant from receiving a work permit if the asylum application is filed more than one year after the applicant entered the United States, unless an asylum officer of immigration judge decides the applicant is allowed to file the application late.

Ineligibility based on unlawful entry. Under the new rule, asylum applicants are prohibited from receiving a work permit if they entered the United States unlawfully. However, asylum applicants who entered unlawfully will be able to obtain a work permit if they can prove they had good cause to enter the United States unlawfully, they went to an immigration officer within 48 hours of entering the United States, and they told the immigration officer they intended to apply for asylum or feared returning to her home country.

Ineligibility based on delay. An asylum applicant who causes a delay in the adjudication of the asylum application that has not been resolved when the work permit application is filed will not be eligible for a work permit.

This new rule will make it much more difficult for asylum applicants to obtain a work permit while awaiting a decision on an asylum application.

Effective Date: August 25, 2020