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Can Asylum Seekers Still Get a Work Permit in the United States?

Can Asylum Seekers Still Get a Work Permit in the United States?


Since two recent announcements can make it much harder for asylum seekers to obtain work permits in the United States, they require immediate action. In this post, we will summarize some of the key changes made. With the new rules being unjust and wrong, we know the changes are upsetting and stressful for those asylum seekers looking to work in the United States.

The first rule, which goes into effect on August 21, 2020, allows the government to take more time to decide on work permit applications

The second rule, which goes into effect on August 25, 2020, applies many changes making it harder for asylum seekers to get work authorization.

Changes to who can get a work permit:

  • Asylum seekers who cross the border on or after August 25, 2020, and do not present at a port of entry will NOT be eligible to receive a work permit unless they meet certain exceptions.
  • Asylum seekers who have been in the United States for more than a year and file their application for asylum on or after August  25, 2020, will NOT be eligible for a work permit. However, an exception can be granted by an immigration judge, or for applicants designated as an “unaccompanied minor.”
  • As of August 25, 2020, asylum seekers will have to wait one year (365 days) after submitting their asylum application to become eligible for a work permit. Previously the waiting period was 180 days (about 6 months).
  • Asylum seekers may NOT be eligible for work permits if they commit certain crimes or are convicted of certain crimes.

Other important changes:

  • Beginning August 21, 2020, the U.S. government will no longer have a 30-day requirement for deciding on an initial work permit.
  • Beginning August 25, 2020, the “asylum clock” will no longer be stopped by the government for specific reasons. Instead, the government may deny work permit applications if they determine that there are “unresolved applicant-caused delays”. An example of this might be if the asylum seeker missed a biometrics appointment and their application is denied as a result.
  • If an asylum seeker’s case is denied by the immigration judge and the asylum seeker does not appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) within 30 days, OR if an appeal is filed but denied by the BIA, the asylum seeker’s work permit will be terminated automatically and cannot be renewed.

Possible action steps for asylum seekers in immigration court:

  • If you have 150 days or more on your asylum clock now, consider applying for a work permit as quickly as possible, and before August 25, 2020. To check your asylum clock, call the immigration court’s automated hotline: 1-800-898-7180.
  • If your asylum clock will reach 150 days before August 25, 2020, consider applying for a work permit as soon as your clock reaches 150 days, and before August 25, 2020.
  • If you have been in the United States for more than a year or will be in the United States for more than a year by August 25, 2020, and you are in proceedings in immigration court, consider filing your asylum application as soon as possible if you have not already done so. If you are in this situation, it is very important to submit your asylum application before August 25, 2020, to be able to apply for a work permit in the future.

These are possible action steps asylum seekers can take. However, with each case being the story for itself with many possible repercussions, you should talk to a Chicago immigration attorney about your specific case.


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