U.S. restricts work permits for asylum-seekers


The new rule beginning today, August 25, 2020, will require migrants to wait 365 days from the day they file their asylum petition before applying for work authorization, replacing the previous 150-day timeline. It also disqualifies asylum-seekers from being able to request work permits if they crossed the border illegally.

The new rules limiting asylum applicant's eligibility for employment authorization  takes effect today August 25, 2020. 

The first rule change, effective August 21, 2020, eliminates the requirement that USCIS must process employment authorization applications within 30 days of receiving the application.  This rule change allows USCIS to adjudicate work permit applications for an indeterminate period of time, which will inevitably result in delays.  

The government claims this move will deter immigrants from filing “frivolous, fraudulent, or otherwise non-meritorious [asylum] claims.”  But the rule change is more likely to force asylum seekers further into poverty and informal economies, thereby making it more difficult for them to meet their basic needs.

The second rule change, effective today, August 25, 2020, severely restricts eligibility for work permits while simultaneously increasing the waiting time for work permits.  This too will have dire consequences for asylum seekers struggling financially while their asylum applications remain pending.  The new measures mandate the government to:

Delay the issuance of work permits (EAD's) by more than doubling the waiting period to apply from 150 days to 365 days;

Bar asylum seekers from receiving a work permit if they attempt to enter the United States without inspection on or after August 25, 2020, unless they qualify for very limited exceptions;

Deny employment authorization for asylum seekers who file their asylum application after the one-year filing deadline, unless granted an exception;

Prohibit employment authorization for applicants who have been convicted of certain crimes or who are “believed” to have committed a serious non-political crime outside the United States;

Deny employment authorization applications if the underlying asylum application has experienced “unresolved applicant-caused delays,” such as a request to amend or supplement the asylum application or if the application is being transferred to a different asylum office due to a change in the applicant’s address;

Automatically terminate an asylum seeker’s work permit without provision for renewal if an immigration judge denies the asylum case and the applicant does not appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) within 30 days, or if the applicant does appeal but the BIA denies the appeal; and

Limit the employment authorization validity period to a maximum of two years. This applies to asylum applicants who want to renew their employment authorization based on an I-589 Asylum Application filed before this rule took effect. [This will be truly devastating for individuals who were granted Prosecutorial Discretion (PD) while in removal proceedings in order to avoid the risk of deportation, and have been living legally in the US for years renewing their employment authorization every 2 years based on there administratively closed asylum application.]

More about new rule for asylum-seekers employment authorization card.