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.]

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Marwan bin July 21, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Hi Jason,
I really appreciate your the article and you trying to explain. I applied to renew my work permit early May and my driver license is expired and I couldn’t renew it since i don’t have a proof of valid legal presence. I received the receipt already and I’m looking for an official law in the USCIS website to show them my work permit is still valid.

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Ben July 21, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Hi Marwan,
I’m having the same issue. My driver licence is expired and I applied for EAD so I can renew my license since I can not renew is using my expired passport. When did you apply for EAD, in your experience how much it takes to get it in hand?

By the way if you explain to the DMV that you are waiting for immigration documents they might be able to give you a temporary extension for your license.

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Marwan bin July 21, 2017 at 9:40 pm

I applied on May 4th and I went to the DMV and they refused to renew my Driver license.

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Jason Dzubow July 23, 2017 at 6:56 am

At the bottom of the above-article are some links to government websites that explain this. Also, there is a link in the main article to the Code of Federal Regulations. You can print some of those and bring them to the DMV, an hopefully, they will accept them. Remember, this only works if you had an asylum pending EAD and you are applying for a new EAD in that same category, but if so, it should work. Take care, Jason

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rushma thapa July 19, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Hello can asylum ead can be called as GC-EAD.

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Jason Dzubow July 19, 2017 at 8:06 pm

I never heard of that. A person with a green card (GC) does not need an EAD, since the GC itself is evidence that the person can work legally in the US. Take care, Jason

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Nk July 18, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Hello Jason,
I’m waiting for my EAD card 64 days, I called to UCSIS twice, they gave me confirmation number but on site when I check my status there is written like that :
Next Steps
Next upcoming event
If we accept your case, you will receive a receipt notice. If we reject your case, we will send you an explanation with instructions.
List Bullet
As of June 15, 2017, your Other – Tier 1, referral number …………., is currently not assigned for processing.
List Bullet
As of July 18, 2017, your inquiry about the status of your Employment Authorization application, referral number …….., is currently not assigned for processing.

What can I do? Make an appointment and go to office or wait for it?

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Jason Dzubow July 19, 2017 at 6:18 am

In my experience, it takes 2 to 4 months to get the EAD, so you can just wait and see what happens. I suppose if you want to go to ask about the EAD, you can, though I doubt that will help. Anyway, there is no harm in asking. Take care, Jason

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Jercy July 18, 2017 at 2:18 am

Hi Jason . I got my EAD card today.. thanks for ur responses.. pls I want to know if I can apply for social security card with another address other than the address on my pending assylum case.Waiting for ur response. Thanks

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Jason Dzubow July 18, 2017 at 6:41 am

I think you probably could, but this could cause problems for your asylum case if the asylum office knows about it – it may be something you need to explain later. Take care, Jason

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Sanique D July 18, 2017 at 6:32 pm

How long did you have to wait before getting your EAD. I’m waiting more than 100 days now

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Wuilneibis July 17, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Hi Jason. Thank for your help to everyone. I applied for asylum on December 2015, and I don’t have a decision yet. I married last April and I added my wife to my pending asylum. My question is. After I add her in my case. When can she apply to Work permission? Thanks

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Jason Dzubow July 18, 2017 at 6:32 am

She should be eligible for the work permit at the same time your are eligible, so in your case, she should be eligible now. Take care, Jason

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Ben July 17, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Hi Jason,
I need your advice please. I’m based in Florida. I applied for asylum in Sept 2014. However, I’m still in valid J-1 visa ever since. I did not renew my passport throughout this period. Recently, I tried to renew my driver licence, however they did not issue my a renewal because my passport is expired. Now I either have renew my passport (which I heard is not advisable since I applied for asylum) or apply for EAD card which is acceptable from of identification by the DMV. This will be my first time applying for EAD. How long would it take to get it in mail?

My current driver licence will expire in 30 days.

I appreciate your response,
Best,
Ben

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Jason Dzubow July 18, 2017 at 6:31 am

The first EAD normally takes 2 to 4 months. It is better to not renew the passport, especially if you are fearful of your government (as opposed to a terrorist group in your country that the government cannot control). Take care, Jason

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J July 15, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Hi Jason,

Thanks for your helpful guidance.
My asylum is pending and I just highly needed your advice if there is a need for Social Security if USCIS has sent EAD for my employment.

Thanks,
J

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Jason Dzubow July 16, 2017 at 7:09 am

Once you have the EAD, you can get the SS card – you need both to be hired legally in the US. Take care, Jason

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R.A July 16, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Hi Jason,

Hope you are fine. Please advise How can I get a SSN after obtaining my EAD? Thanks a lot.

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Jason Dzubow July 18, 2017 at 6:07 am

Contact the local Social Security office – you should be able to Google “Social Security” and find it. Take care, Jason

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J July 16, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Appreciate for your consistent support and reliable response for asylum community.

Thanks,
J

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Diego Hernandez July 13, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Hello Jason,
Very quick question….

I’m the EAD instructions form, there’s a little paragraph that says something about an interim EAD granted to people with pending asylum applications. It says that if you file for an EAD and receive no response in 30 days, you can request an interim EAD at a USCIS office…
Tell me, how much of this is true? And, why doesn’t anyone ever talk about this?
Can you please explain a little bit about this interim EAD?

Thanks a lot!!!

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Jason Dzubow July 14, 2017 at 6:17 am

My understanding is that this was true at one time, but is no longer available now. I suppose you could call USCIS and ask about this to be sure. You can find their phone number at http://www.uscis.gov. Take care, Jason

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Wolex July 13, 2017 at 11:02 am

Hi Jason,thanks for your raising hope answers to so many questions you are being asked always,you are really appreciated .
My asylum application is already 150days,in between I had done everything necessary (finger print & biometric )then I waited few days after it hits150days to apply for EAD,of which I applied for EAD and I received mail that acknowledge receipt of my EAD application stating that it’s in procees……it’s 1month today, Pls how long does it take or will it take for EAD to come out.
Thanks a bunch and remain blessed.

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Jason Dzubow July 14, 2017 at 6:15 am

We are seeing EADs take 2 to 4 months. These days, most seem to take closer to 4 months, but if you have the receipt, you should be fine and hopefully it will come quickly. Take care, Jason

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Mani July 12, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Hi Jason,

i have applied for renewal of my EAD and received acceptance from USCIS on 20th march 2017. it has been almost 4 months and i have still not received my new EAD. Is it normal to take so long. i have applied in the Nebraska office.

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Jason Dzubow July 13, 2017 at 6:16 am

It is getting to be a bit long. Maybe call USCIS and inquire about the case. You can find their phone number at http://www.uscis.gov. Take care, Jason

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bassam July 11, 2017 at 6:46 pm

hi jason,
First of all thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. second of all i wanted to say that iam an asylum applicant and i have applied for asylum on Feb 2017 and now the waiting of 150 days is done so i conatcted my lawyer in order to apply for a work permit and i knew from him that my wife cannot apply for a work permit also knowing that when we filed the asylum application we did as a family and that my wife and my child are included in the application and now the lawyer is saying if i want to apply for a work permit for my wife she has first to file an asylum application on her own and to wait another 150 days in order to be able to file for a work permit is that right? or its cause he wants me to pay again for the asylum application ?

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Jason Dzubow July 12, 2017 at 6:33 am

The lawyer is wrong. If your wife was included in your case originally (meaning you included an additional page 9 of the form I-589 signed by her with her photo), then she can apply for a work permit the same as you. If she was not included in your case, and you wanted to include her, then the lawyer screwed this up. Either way, you can add her now to your case and she can get an EAD without waiting 150 days. To add her to your case, contact the asylum office and they will tell you what to do. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Of course, if she has her own independent claim for asylum and she wants to do her own case, she can try that too, but normally a married couple files one case together. Take care, Jason

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soumen chatterjee July 10, 2017 at 10:58 pm

Hi jason
This is soumen here , i was looking for some questain answer ,for my asylum case , and i found you very helpful here , please help me with your answer.
recently i have complited the asylum interview , and they said come back after 14 days to pick up your decesion , i have a lawyer in my case ,but days ago she said ,you dont need to go to pick up the decesion ,they will mail it to me ,i dont understand the meanings of that ,now im confuse that do i go to pick up my decesion to the asylum office or not,
im sure i will not be granted asylum , so if i get denyed ,what should i do next ,im asking you because ,im not able pay more money to the lawyer.my financial condition is not good ,
please help me with your sujestion .
i will be very much greatful to you
Thank you and god bless you

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Jason Dzubow July 12, 2017 at 6:19 am

It is common for the asylum office to call the lawyer and say that a decision will not be ready for pick up, and that they will mail it (when they mail it, normally they send it to the asylum applicant and to the lawyer). If you do not trust your lawyer, you can just go to the pick up and see whether there is a decision, or you can email the asylum office to confirm that it will be a mail out decision. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. If the case goes to court, maybe you can find a free lawyer – I wrote about that on September 22, 2016, and maybe you can use the links in that post to find a free lawyer. Take care, Jason

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Malik July 9, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Sir,
I went to US on J 1 visa back in may 2015 and I got a chance to get married with a US citizen there,she lives in canneticut state and I was in Colorado somehow she came there and we took oath in court and our marriage Got registered,for the past 2 years she had to invite me but she didn’t and I was on a one month exchange program visa I came back to Pakistan.she got injured and jobless and she had no money she lied to me and was not able to sponsor me,I waited for her but she did nothing for me.now as I can’t go there at my own,I have to marry here and she called me today and said you can’t marry there in Pakistan,until or unless you get divorce from me,she don’t have money and she is asking me to give her money which I don’t want to coz she will eat burgers I know,according to Pakistani law I have to marry here as per Islamic law and she is threatening me that you can’t get married there,so I am confused and upset kindly answer me if I get marry here I. Pakistan,what will be the effects ,as that was a paper marriage
Regards
Malik

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Jason Dzubow July 10, 2017 at 6:19 am

I can only assist with asylum cases here, sorry. However, you can probably talk to a divorce lawyer in Pakistan and take care of this. There is no need to send her any money. Take care, Jason

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Delayselam July 7, 2017 at 11:15 pm

Hi Jason,

I read almost all your posts since 2013, ur articles and responses are timely and very helpful. I had an affirmative case ( asylum seeker) for 4 years and one month. Fortunately, I got approved in June 2017.
But before I got my paper I was waiting for my work permit ( that I applied before March and the USCIS send me a letter saying Form I-765 is denied because I granted asylum. But last week they send me a work permit because of my asylum approval. So can I get a refund for the one that applied before I granted for asylum?

Thank you

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Jason Dzubow July 9, 2017 at 10:56 am

Good question. I have a feeling that this will be very difficult. The best bet is to call USCIS or make an info pass appointment (at http://www.uscis.gov) and ask them if it is possible to get a refund. If you have any luck, let us know. Thank you, Jason

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Reine you July 7, 2017 at 9:59 pm

Hiii, I applied my paper to renew the EAD card after 20 days of the expiration date. Do you think this will affect my application or the time processing ?

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Jason Dzubow July 9, 2017 at 10:52 am

I do not think it will affect the processing time (usually 2 to 4 months), but I do not know whether you wild get the automatic 180-day extension. I think you will, but I am not sure. If you get the receipt and it tell you whether your old EAD is extended for 180 days, please let us know. Thank you, Jason

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Aashi July 7, 2017 at 10:02 am

Hi Jason,

Thank you so much for your very useful response. It provided much clarity that I needed at this time of severe frustration. Yes, it was final denial which happened after NOID response within the 16 days. My lawyer still thinks the case can be appealed in court if my spouse goes out of status but I am not hopeful at all. No, I don’t have any other work documents. Thats why, I did not understand the presumptive statement made in the denial letter.

The asylum officer that I got was very new and struggled to understand the basics of my case and situation. We fervently hoped that even if the officer was new and lacked empathy and basic understanding of the case, there would be strict and strong supervision from above but there seemed to be none. I truly wonder as to how such new recruits with no sense of understanding and empathy could be given such unlimited power to determine our lives and status in the US. Had the officer waited to give the denial decision before my EAD arrives, I would have at least had the opportunity to legally work and make positive contribution for at least two more years. But this was not to be.

Anyways, the whole asylum process for me has been one wild roller-coaster ride in the dark with uncertainties galore and dearth of information in every step of the way. My asylum journey has come to an end. But I must reiterate that your blog and your noble work in shedding light on many confusions, nuances and layers of this complicated asylum system and process for the asylum seekers will never be forgotten. You have my heartfelt appreciation for all that you do and you do a very good job of it!

Thanks again and take care,
A.

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Jason Dzubow July 7, 2017 at 4:57 pm

I appreciate your comments – Thank you. I think your case will not go to court; it is done. If the EAD crosses in the mail, you may still get it. If you want, you can apply again (I am sure that thought is not appealing to you). You will be eligible for the EAD after 150 days, and eventually you will get an interview. Since you were already denied, you likely will be denied again, but if you are out-of-status at that point, you will then get referred to court where you can try again. I have found most asylum officers to be pretty good – but certainly not all, and many are inexperienced, as most people do not stay very long in those jobs, which is too bad. Good luck, Jason

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Aashi July 7, 2017 at 10:03 pm

Immense thanks for your kind response which I find very useful, comforting and clear. You definitely restore our faith in humanity and the system. I salute you for your very noble work and wish you good health and loads of happiness in your life. Thank you so much and take good care.

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Aashi July 6, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Hi Jason,

I have been following your blog for a long time and it has helped me a lot. Actually, the information that you provide and the responses that you give to innumerable queries from asylum seekers are much more helpful than what we get from our own lawyers. Thank you.

I am on a dependent visa and received denial on my asylum application. After the asylum interview, I filed for renewal of my employment authorization and received a receipt notice saying that the application was received and the processing would take place. Till now, I did not receive the EAD card and I received the denial decision before the EAD. Does this mean my EAD (even if it arrives later with two-year validity) is now considered nullified because of the denial? My denial letter says “You may be otherwise eligible for employment authorization based on your valid immigrant, nonimmigrant, parole or temporary protected status”. What does the above statement mean? Is there anything I can do to get my employment authorization on track? When can I appeal in Immigration Court?

Thank you so much. I am worried sick with my situation as I don’t have the asylum as well as employment authorization.

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Jason Dzubow July 7, 2017 at 6:35 am

It depends what you mean by “denial”. If the case was denied by the asylum office and referred to court, you will get your EAD. In that case, your denial letter (called a “referral”) will contain a Notice to Appear, indicating that you have to go to court. If the case was denied and not referred to court (meaning you first got a Notice of Intent to Deny, you responded within 16 days, and you got a Denial letter), then your case is done and you will not get an EAD (or if you do get it, it will be invalided). If you have a final denial, you can still work if you have some other type of work document, like an H1b visa or TPS. Take care, Jason

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Jewel July 5, 2017 at 10:22 am

😀😀😀

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