Work Permits for Asylum Seekers—Some Good News

by Jason Dzubow on January 25, 2017

The new Administration has raised anxieties in immigrant and asylum seeker communities. In part, this is because of President Trump’s rhetoric (and rhetorical style) during the election. And in part, it’s because we just don’t know what to expect from a Trump Administration. Rumors have been flying: Will there be some sort of Muslim ban? Will the President repeal DACA? Or will he (and Congress) create a permanent legalization for DACA recipients? Mr. Trump will be issuing some executive orders later today banning Syrian and other refugees from coming to the U.S., and restricting visas for people from certain Middle Eastern countries. How this will all play out, we shall see.

Filling gaps is a good thing.

But amidst the uncertainty, there is some good news related to work permits—or Employment Authorization Documents (“EADs”)—for asylum seekers.

First, last fall, the government started issuing two-year EADs instead of one-year EADs to people with pending asylum cases. This was a helpful development. It saves money since applicants now only have to apply for a new card every other year. It also makes it easier to obtain and retain employment, since employers feel more confident hiring people who have a longer period of authorized employment. In addition, many states issue driver’s licenses that correspond to the dates on the EAD, so a two-year card means a two-year license. All this helps ease the wait for people seeking asylum.

Second, last week the government issued new (and long anticipated) regulations “to help prevent gaps in employment authorization”:

DHS is providing for the automatic extension of expiring EADs (and underlying employment authorization, if applicable) for up to 180 days with respect to individuals who are seeking renewal of their EADs (and, if applicable, employment authorization) based on the same employment authorization categories under which they were granted.

This means that when you file to renew your EAD, your card will be automatically extended for 180 days once you receive the receipt (it usually takes three or four weeks to get the receipt). This is an important development, since USCIS has been taking months to process EAD renewals, and people were losing their jobs and driver’s licenses while they waited for their new EADs.

The automatic EAD extensions apply to refugees, people with asylum, and people who have pending asylum or withholding of removal cases, among others. You can see the new regulations here (see page 82491, the second to last page of the PDF) and here (page 82455, footnote 98, which lists the categories of people eligible for the automatic EAD extension).

Also, remember that you can apply for a new EAD up to 120 days before the old card expires. Even with the most recent change, it is still a good idea to apply early for your new card, so you receive the replacement EAD as soon as possible.

And here’s one last tip for today. If you cannot afford to pay for the new EAD (fees recently went up), you can request a fee waiver from USCIS, which—if granted—allows you to obtain a new EAD without paying the fee. To apply for a fee waiver, use form I-912, available here.

I have written many times about the affirmative asylum backlog. It has been a real disaster for asylum seekers—especially those separated from their family members. The recent changes to the EAD process, during the waning days of the Obama Administration, have at least made one aspect of the wait easier, and for that, we can be thankful.

[Update 03/27/17: USCIS has published a helpful summary of the categories eligible for the automatic extension here. They also created a useful Fact Sheet, available here.]

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Diego February 16, 2018 at 11:43 am

I am an asylum seeker, applied last year, and currently hold an EAD based on my asylum application… I came to the US with a b1/b2 visa… can an employer file a GC petition (i-140) on my behalf? If the application is approved by USCIS, can I adjust status inside the US?

Thank you for the information!


Jason Dzubow February 18, 2018 at 6:24 am

It sounds like you would probably need to leave the US to get a GC based on employment, since your B visa is expired already. That may or may not be possible, depending on the case. You would need to have a lawyer review the case to see whether you might be able to do this. Take care, Jason


Diego February 18, 2018 at 11:24 am

Thank you for your response…
My B1/B2 visa expires in 2022… my entry permit (i-94) did expire last year by April…
Which of those two are you referring to?


Jason Dzubow February 18, 2018 at 9:01 pm

The I-94 determines how long you can remain here lawfully. That is what I was referring to. Take care, Jason


Shafi February 15, 2018 at 3:37 pm

Hey Jason,

I am an asylum seeker with pending status. I do have an EAD card issued for me through OPT. I have been waiting for 150 days to apply for a renewal, but my existing EAD doesn’t expire until June. I guess my question is that can I apply for jobs (outside my field of study) as an asylum seeker using my current OPT or do I have to wait to renew my EAD card after 150 days?


Jason Dzubow February 16, 2018 at 7:19 am

I do not know whether you are technically allowed to work on the OPT EAD outside your area, but people do it frequently. For practical purposes, it probably would not affect your asylum case, since that is already pending. If you plan to try to switch to another immigration status, such as H1b, you might not be able to do that unless you properly maintain the OPT EAD. Take care, Jason


Sana February 10, 2018 at 8:15 pm

Hello everyone,

Guess what???? I got my work permit yeeee. Ok so detsils to help you all out:

I applied for my work permit based on pending asylum application on december the 16, 2017.

I got a notice of confirmation regarding my work permit application on January 01,2018.

I got my second letter of approval on febuary 9,2018.

I got my ead card on febuary 10,2018.

My work permit was through taxes dallas. It was very quick the whole process that i cant even believe. I hope this time frame regarding my ead application process help you out.



Asylum February 10, 2018 at 8:59 pm

Congratulations Joni,did apply for your ssn all together and have you gotten it.


Sana February 11, 2018 at 5:01 pm

I have a SSN already, accutally i worked for a year when i was in college before. Thats how i already got my SSN befoee applying for Asylum.

This is the first time i applied for EAD based on my asylum pending application.



Sam February 11, 2018 at 3:04 am

Congratulations!!! That was good. I got my EAD too. But it took me holly 6 MONTH! I believe you guys will get it soon whoever still waiting. I know it’s so hard to wait without estimate time. Good thing is- just “KEEP CALM AND WAIT” that’s the bottom point!
Filed on August 1st
Received EAD on 30rd of January
Texas office


Sandeep February 11, 2018 at 3:29 am

Me too, I applied o n July 17 & I got my EAD on January 20th it’s too late. But it’s ok. Now I have my EAD for 2 years.


Jason Dzubow February 11, 2018 at 8:24 am

Was this a first time EAD or a renewal?


Jason Dzubow February 11, 2018 at 8:24 am

Was this a first time EAD or a renewal?


Sam February 11, 2018 at 8:36 am

This is my 3rd time renewal Mr Dzubow.


Jason Dzubow February 11, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Renewals seem to be much slower than first time applications – we have been seeing this pattern. Thank you, Jason

Jason Dzubow February 11, 2018 at 8:09 am

That’s great – Thank you for sharing the timeline, Jason


Atif February 11, 2018 at 4:22 pm

Hi J,

Me too got my EAD last week. Applied for 1st time renewal in June 2017 but got it for 2 years.

Glad they renewed the date from when they issued it and not when I applied for it. That way 2 years start from Jan 18 to Jan 2020, which is a good thing.

I got my case received in March 2016. Any idea when should I expect my interview call? I am in NY. I think it can be before my 2020 EAD/ID expires. What do you predict.

Also I was able to receive the interim ID of six month extension before I got the 2020 one. DMV was very unhelpful, but I forced them to verify the extension on their system. And they were able to- upon which they did issue the ID that expires next month.

Thanks to your site- it has been a valuable resource to maneuver all these procedures and processing timelines.

Warm regards, Atif.


Jason Dzubow February 12, 2018 at 7:18 am

There is no way to predict when the interview will be under the new system. We well just have to see how things are moving over the coming months. Take care, Jason


Raoul Jonu February 10, 2018 at 7:49 pm

I submitted an application for asylum that is still pending. I received a work permit and for the past year, I have been working.
I know that I have to file a tax report. Can I expect to receive some tax return, please?
Thank you


Jason Dzubow February 11, 2018 at 8:08 am

I have no idea – you need to talk to a tax professional. Take care, Jason


Andre Silva February 4, 2018 at 12:30 pm

Good afternoon!!
Thank God, my EAD has arrived !!!!
Friend, is there any way I can request social security for my 9-year-old son? He is also included in my asylum process. Thank you for all your information, God bless you !!


Jason Dzubow February 5, 2018 at 7:06 am

You could apply for an EAD for him. Otherwise, maybe look at the social security website or ask his school – maybe there is a way to get an SSN without the EAD, but I think he will need the EAD. Take care, Jason


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