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 permit 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 for 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 asylum application on, or after August  25, 2020, will NOT be eligible for a work permit unless an immigration judge finds them qualified for an exception, or unless they are a child who is designated as an “unaccompanied minor.”
  • Asylum seekers will have to wait 365 days (one year) after submitting their asylum application to be eligible for a work permit, instead of 180 days (about 6 months), starting on August 25, 2020.
  • Asylum seekers who have committed, or who have been convicted of certain crimes will NOT be eligible for work permits.

Other important changes:

  • Starting on August 21, 2020, the government will no longer have to decide on an initial work permit within 30 days.
  • Starting on August 25, 2020, the government will no longer stop the asylum clock for specific reasons. Instead, the government will deny applications for work permits if they decide that there are “unresolved applicant-caused delays”. For example, if the asylum seeker missed a biometrics appointment their application will be denied.
  • If the immigration judge denies an asylum seeker’s case and the asylum seeker does not appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) within 30 days, OR if the asylum seeker does appeal but the BIA denies the appeal, their work permit will terminate 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.