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.

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Thakshi February 24, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Hi jason,

I have wuestion about adylum application. I already done my fingerprints in dec 18 th 2016. Now how long i have to wait to apply work permit?

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Jason Dzubow February 24, 2017 at 5:29 pm

It is unknown. You can get some idea by looking at the Asylum Office Scheduling Bulletin – a link is at right. Take care, Jason

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Johnson February 25, 2017 at 9:11 pm

Hi sir,
I am asylee pending and I am still waiting for my interview but it seems like it will take at 1 to 2 years again. my fiance who is at home isn’t in my asylum pending case. Can i insert her name?
What can be the best way for her to come easily in USA? As student or other?

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Jason Dzubow February 26, 2017 at 11:00 pm

Unless you are legally married, your finance cannot be listed in your asylum form as your wife, and you cannot bring her to the US if you win your case. If she can come to the US, she can marry you and join the case. There are many ways to come to the US – student, worker, tourist – it just depends what she is qualified for. You might want to talk to an immigration lawyer for help with that. Take care, Jason

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Emily February 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

Hi Jason,
May I ask that I am currently under I-589 pending and I just mailed my documents to renew my work permit yesterday but my work permit would expire 4/18. I saw here that my work permit would get an automatic extension of 180 days after I received the receipt, is that true? Cause I am so worried about my job right now that I could get fired if my work permit expired. Or do I have to wait about 90 days to get the new work permit and work ?
Can you advise me please ? Thank you so much Jason

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Jason Dzubow February 23, 2017 at 7:20 am

As discussed in the posting above, the receipt automatically extends the work permit. I provided links to the government website as well. Take care, Jason

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Mary February 17, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Hey Jason!

How long do you think it will take for USCIS to mail a new EAD after they said they ordered it?
I just checked my status and it now says they have ordered my card on feb 17 and that they will mail it.
Thanks!

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El Johnson February 17, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Hey Sir,
I submit my EAD application with without my birth certificate, and my visa. I got my first notice already. Does USCIS will require me those document before to approve my EAD or they will send me it basing the document that i provide to them.

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Jason Dzubow February 17, 2017 at 6:02 pm

You have to check the form I-765 about what documents you need to submit. If you forgot to send something, USCIS will send you a letter requesting additional evidence. Take care, Jason

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Jason Dzubow February 17, 2017 at 6:01 pm

Probably 2 to 4 weeks, though it is not always predictable. Take care, Jason

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Meya February 17, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Hello Jason,
We are awaiting the 150 days to be over before we can apply for the EAD. What are the things that i am allowed to do in this time period? Can i do an Internship or a Training? We are educated and have always loved working but without EAD’s…we are going crazy and want something to do…please advice.

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Jason Dzubow February 17, 2017 at 5:56 pm

I do not know your current status, but you should be able to do volunteer work. As long as you are not paid, it is allowed. Also, if you work for cash, it does not affect your asylum case (though it could affect other applications that you might make, if you are eligible for any). Take care, Jason

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Shri February 16, 2017 at 1:04 am

Hi Jason,

I applied for Asylum and my priority date is Oct 2016. I will be able to apply for my work permit in March. Do you know if in the meantime I can apply for a drivers license? Or will I need to wait to get my work permit?

Thanks.

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Jason Dzubow February 16, 2017 at 7:23 am

Some states allow people to get a DL with the asylum receipt and proof of residence; other states require the EAD. Ask your DMV or check their website and maybe you can find out. Take care, Jason

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Big V February 15, 2017 at 1:46 am

Hi Jason
how are you?hope good.How will we get a new drivers licence with the this new extention policy since we have only the receipt and not the actual EAD.Do you know if we will be able to get our driver licence extended with just the reciept.

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Jason Dzubow February 15, 2017 at 11:12 pm

I do not know, as each state is different. I do think it is worth a try – Maybe take copies of the pages from the Federal Register that I listed in the article above and ask the DMV about the extension. If they refuse, you might ask to see a supervisor, since the receipt now extends the EAD. I doubt that most DMVs are aware of this rule, as it is very new, so maybe you will have to educate them. Let us know what happens. Thank you, Jason

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Diego February 14, 2017 at 10:33 am

Hi Jason.

Is there any possible way to apply/obtain for an EAD before the 150 day wait period?

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Jason Dzubow February 15, 2017 at 10:44 pm

Not based on asylum pending – it is written into the statute and the regulations. Take care, Jason

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abiy February 14, 2017 at 10:04 am

Hi Jason. I have filed for my initial EAD for pending asylum application 30 days ago. When I tried to check my case status USCIS doesn’t recognize my receipt number.
my question is:
1. Does USCIS send acknowledgment of my application letter?
2. When can I receive my EAD.
Thanks.

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Jason Dzubow February 15, 2017 at 10:38 pm

EADs normally take 2 to 4 months, but you should have received a receipt in 3 or 4 weeks after filing. If not, make sure you sent it to the correct address, and maybe you can call USCIS to ask about the status using your Alien number and your name. You can find their phone number on their website, http://www.uscis.gov. Take care, Jason

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Thankful Again February 14, 2017 at 12:50 am

Jason, thank you for everything. I commented before to say this, I’m doing it now, and I will likely do it again in the future. You are really a huge force for good. Thank you, man.

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Jason Dzubow February 14, 2017 at 7:28 am

Thanks – it keeps me out of trouble, at least. Take care, Jason

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Sanam February 13, 2017 at 2:09 am

Dear Jason
I have a question my clock stopped 8 years ago because my attorney did not file change of venue and I did nor appear at the court..now they are saying u cannot get my EAD since my clock is completely stopped…I have been living without EAD for last 8 years…is there any suggestion u can give so I Caan get my clock restart and get my EAD?

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Jason Dzubow February 13, 2017 at 7:40 am

I cannot tell from your question whether it is possible or not, as I would need a lot more info. But the rules regarding the clock have changed several times in the last few years, and it is now easier to make the clock start moving. You should talk to a lawyer about this to see if the lawyer can stat the clock again. Take care, Jason

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Johnson February 12, 2017 at 11:12 am

Hey!
what will be the different between an asylee pending who submit his EAD at 150 and those who wait more than 180 days before to submit. for example be waiting 3 months after 150 days and submit, when can I expect to get my working permit.
Also, does a firstasylee applicant will pay filling fees even he is F-1?

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Jason Dzubow February 12, 2017 at 11:21 am

The first time you apply for an EAD based on asylum pending, you do not need to pay the fee. There is usually no difference in the wait time from the date you file until the date you get the EAD card, whether you file at 150 days, 180 days or 500 days, it should be about the same. Take care, Jason

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Johnson February 12, 2017 at 8:34 pm

I filled up the EAD application there are 2 weeks ago, but I still don’t get a notice from them. When can I expect to get my first notice and get my EAD card too.
My application was received janauary 30, 2016.

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Jason Dzubow February 13, 2017 at 7:26 am

It normally takes 2 to 4 weeks to get the receipt and the EAD arrives in 2 to 4 months. So it seems to me that there is nothing to worry about in your case at this time. If you do not have the receipt in another 2 weeks, then you can start to worry, but I suspect you will get it. Take care, Jason

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Mekus February 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Hey everyone still awaiting their asylum interview or asylum decision, I just wanted to check in on you guys and give you guys some moral support. Just like you, I was once in that place. I had my interview in April 2014 and waited for nearly 2 years to get my approval decision in March 2016. Those 2 long years seemed like forever to me. It took me consistent visits every month to the Asylum office in Arlington VA until my persistence finally paid off. By next month, I’d be adjusting my status to obtain green card (1 year after the grant of asylum) and have begun my medicals and started filling out the paper work. The 2-year EAD rule is a welcome development and makes employment easy on those awaiting interview/decision. Keep hanging in there everyone, it may seem like forever but when you finally get the asylum it is worth every sweat and effort you’ve made. Cheers

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Jason Dzubow February 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Thank you for sharing that, Jason

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zenny February 12, 2017 at 11:45 pm

Hi Mekus,

Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences and journey with us. It definitely made me, and I am sure for others here as well, feel better and much better informed about the process. It is great that at least your long wait turned out to be worthwhile in the end. Congratulations and all the very best with your new journey!

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Zenny February 8, 2017 at 10:57 pm

Hi Jason,

Thanks so much for the wonderful blog. You are like the light at the end of a dark tunnel for many of us in this blog. Could you please explain this confusing asylum EAD clock?

1. My asylum clock stopped at 328 days due to rescheduled interview. Now, will my EAD clock restart at day 328 on the day after my rescheduled interview? Or will it start all over again from day 1.
2. Since USCIS letter shows 328 days, can I apply for EAD just after I appear for rescheduled interview? Or should I wait for 150 days again to pass before EAD renewal?

Thank you and God bless!

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Jason Dzubow February 9, 2017 at 7:16 am

1 – If the asylum clock passes 180 days, you are eligible for the work permit. It does not have any effect if the clock stops after that, so your clock has no more effect and you are now eligible for a work permit. 2 – You can apply now. Take care, Jason

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Zenny February 9, 2017 at 11:40 am

Thank you so much for clarifying this confusion, Jason. Your kindness and help is very much appreciated. God bless you and your family always!

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Zac February 6, 2017 at 5:11 pm

I was checking USCIS website and you could file the renewal application up to 180 days instead of 120 days before your original EAD expired.

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Jason Dzubow February 7, 2017 at 7:26 am

I have not heard about that before. Could you please send a link? Thank you, Jason

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Zac February 7, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Hi Jason
The link below is from USCIS, and in the renewal section It talk about the 180 days
https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/employment-authorization-document

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Jason Dzubow February 8, 2017 at 7:38 am

Interesting, I had not see that before. The sentence “Generally, you should not file for a renewal EAD more than 180 days before your original EAD expires” is a bit unclear to me. What do they mean by “generally”? Anyway, it does look from this like you can file to renew 180 days before the old card expires. This page was updated on February 1, 2017, so maybe this is a new rule. Thank you for sharing it, Jason

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Zac February 8, 2017 at 9:52 am

And effective 12 a.m. Eastern U.S. time, December 23, 2016, the filling fee is 410$ instead of 380$

Tonye February 6, 2017 at 5:03 pm

Do I need to renew the eads for my kids,since they are not working.thank you.

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Jason Dzubow February 7, 2017 at 7:25 am

That is up to you. It is a form of ID, but typically children do not need ID. I suppose it depends how old they are, and whether you think they need an ID. Take care, Jason

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Tonye February 8, 2017 at 10:41 am

My kids are ages 7and 5.they already have social security and since we are renewing our eads do they also need to renew theirs?thanks

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Jason Dzubow February 8, 2017 at 5:22 pm

If they do not need a valid ID, then whether you renew their EADs is up to you. Normally, young children do not need EADs. Take care, Jason

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A Ponce February 6, 2017 at 1:03 am

Hi Jason

One quick question I sent my ead renewal pending asylum on Dec 15. On dec 30th received receipt notice my case was being transferred to Potomac Service Center in VA. Do they process ead here for asylum because online it says this service center only processes ead for OPT F1 students thank you very much

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Jason Dzubow February 7, 2017 at 7:15 am

USCIS commonly transfers work permit applications around, depending on their workload, so that is probably normal. Lately, I have been hearing about many such applications that have been transferred to VA, so I think you will be fine. Take care, Jason

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Mekus February 11, 2017 at 1:40 pm

I would say that the transfer is a good thing. The Potomac center is a new USCIS center and they have been pretty fast in producing EADs on time. I would consider that a good thing and hope for the best.

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Simon February 5, 2017 at 12:47 am

Hello Jason, appreciate your sincere anwers to questions. Myself & wife want to renew our EAD for pending asylum application which will expire in June. But my lawyer said I won’t pay money for renewal. He is not also filling for fee waiver. How possible & true is that?

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Jason Dzubow February 5, 2017 at 11:40 pm

My understanding is that you pay for renewals or do a fee waiver. I suppose you can double check the instructions to the form I-765 to see if they say anything different from that, but that is my understanding. Take care, Jason

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Ulusow February 4, 2017 at 1:02 pm

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Cleopas February 3, 2017 at 9:55 pm

Jason
i filed for my asylum in November last year , so far i have 3 months in USA and i am not from the 7 countries, since the Executive order suspended all Asylum cases, does this also stop my process that is already in? how many days do i have to wait to apply for Work Authorization because some articles say 120 , 150, 180 days .

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Jason Dzubow February 5, 2017 at 11:06 pm

The EO did not suspend asylum cases (it suspended refugee cases) and so your case should not be affected. Even so, asylum cases are very slow, but that is not related to the EOs. Take care, Jason

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