USCIS Scheduling Policy Shift Means Newest Asylum Applicants Unlikely to Receive a Work Permit

New applicants for asylum are less likely to receive work permits than earlier applicants.


As explained in When Can Asylum Applicants Get a Work Permit (EAD Card)?, applicants for asylum in the U.S. do not automatically qualify to receive a work permit (EAD or employment authorization document) while waiting for their interview and a decision on their case. Instead, in order to be granted a work permit, applicants must have either

  • won their asylum case (which may take several years), or
  • have been left waiting 180 days or more with no initial decision on their application from the asylum office or from the immigration court. (After 150 days, applicants can apply for a work permit and then become eligible to receive it after a wait of 180 days.)

But with so many people having applied for asylum in recent years, it got so that applicants applying affirmatively (on their own volition, not in immigration court proceedings) could basically count on 150 days passing without any decision on their application by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

(The courts are plenty backed up too, so people in removal or deportation proceedings also often wait more than 150 days for a court date, as well.)

In any case, USCIS has decided that the promise of a work permit is creating a problem, in which people are applying for asylum primarily with the motivation of getting a work permit. This comes straight from the top, as Donald Trump reportedly views many asylum seekers as "frauds" seeking to exploit "loopholes" in the system.

USCIS has therefore instituted a new scheduling policy, in which recent asylum applicants will be called in for interviews BEFORE those who had applied earlier, and within 150 days. That way, applicants are unlikely to receive a work permit until and unless they win their asylum case. USCIS says this will deter people "from using asylum backlogs solely to obtain employment authorization by filing frivolous, fraudulent or otherwise non-meritorious asylum applications."

How long does it take to win an asylum case? If you pursue it through the various possible appeals, it can take many years.

Speak to an attorney for a full analysis of your asylum eligibility and the latest on how long you are likely to wait to have your asylum case heard after filing your initial application.

Effective Date: January 29, 2018