Message Us on WhatsApp

Can Asylum Seekers Work?

Can Asylum Seekers Work

Asylum seekers often face numerous challenges, and securing the right to work is paramount among them. Access to employment not only provides you with financial stability but also contributes to your integration into society. However, navigating work permits’ rules and procedures can take time and effort. 


In this article, we’ll delve into the legal framework governing work permits for asylum seekers in the United States. We’ll also explore the eligibility criteria, application processes for initial permits and renewals, the significance of Social Security Numbers (SSNs), common challenges, and alternative work permits. 


Understanding these intricacies is crucial whether you’re an asylum seeker or an advocate seeking to assist them. After reading this article, you will have a clear answer to the question, can asylum seekers work, together with actionable steps to obtain the relevant permits.


The Work Permit Rules


Work permits, also known as Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), are vital for asylum seekers in the U.S. seeking employment. Understanding the legal framework governing these permits is essential.


The first important point is that you only need to obtain an asylum seeker work permit while your asylum application is pending. If you have legal permanent resident status (via a Green Card), or your asylum application has been approved, you have immediate authorization to work.


So, the point of an asylum work permit is for those seeking refuge to be able to work while waiting for a decision on their case. After this, your asylee granted status or Green Card count as your Employment Authorization Document.

Legal Framework Governing Work Permits for Asylum Seekers


The issuance of work permits to asylum seekers is governed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under specific regulations. Initially, the terms refugee and asylum seeker were defined during the United Nations 1951 Convention and subsequent 1967 Protocol.


Since then, the US has introduced a range of Federal Laws relating to asylee status and obtaining work permits. In 1996, a Federal Law was passed stating that seekers must wait 150 days before applying for an asylum work permit.


In 2020, the Trump administration changed this Federal Law and extended the minimum waiting period to 365 days, making things especially difficult for those seeking sanctuary and work. However, that was overturned in 2022 and reverted to the original 150 days.

Eligibility Criteria for Work Permits


To qualify for a work permit, asylum seekers must meet certain eligibility criteria, including filing a complete asylum application within one year of arrival in the U.S. The main criteria, however, are the waiting period and your status, and the USCIS currently states that eligibility applies to one of the following:


  • You were recently paroled into the USA, and that parole is still valid.
  • You have a pending asylum application for at least 150 days.


We have other articles relating to eligibility for asylum status, but we have listed a summary of the requirements below:


  • Be physically located in the U.S.
  • Be able to show that you have a fear of or face persecution in your home country based on:
    • Race
    • Religion
    • Nationality
    • Membership in a particular social group
    • Political Opinion


Providing you meet this eligibility criteria, you can then file Form I-589 within 1 year of your arrival in the States. Once you receive a receipt from the USICS stating they have your application, this is when the 150-day waiting period starts to apply for your work permit.


Asylum Work Permit New Rules 2024
asylum work permit new rules 2024

Work Permit Restrictions for Asylum Seekers


While work permits offer valuable opportunities, certain restrictions apply, such as limitations on the types of employment and potential delays in processing. The main barrier to consider for your work permit for asylum seekers in USA is that some jobs are inadmissible unless you are a legal permanent resident, including:


  • Lawyers
  • Doctors
  • Therapists
  • Teachers
  • Surveyors
  • Electricians


Essentially, any job that requires a security clearance or a specific license is generally unavailable to asylum seekers, even if you have an EAD.

Initial Work Permits for Asylum Seekers


Securing an initial work permit is often the first step toward self-sufficiency for asylum seekers. Understanding the application process is crucial and this is something your asylum lawyer can help with as they have an in-depth understanding of the process.

Process for Obtaining an Initial Work Permit


Asylum seekers can apply for an initial work permit by submitting Form I-765 along with supporting documentation to USCIS. It’s crucial that the 150-day waiting period has elapsed and that you have a complete set of the required supporting documents. This process includes the following steps:


  1. Submit your initial asylum application.
  2. Comply with the minimum 150-day waiting period.
  3. Complete Form I-765
  4. Attach the required supporting documentation:
    1. Copy of Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure record).
    2. Two passport-style photos.
    3. Form G-28 (If you have an asylum attorney representative).
    4. Copy of a government-issued ID.
    5. USCIS asylum grant letter.
  5. Submit the form and pay the fee if necessary.
  6. Wait for approval.
  7. Receive your EAD

Work Permit Renewals for Asylum Seekers

Renewing a work permit ensures continuity of employment and legal status. Familiarizing yourself with the renewal process is crucial to avoid interruptions in employment.

How to Renew Work Permits as an Asylum Seeker

The renewal process involves submitting a new application before the current permit expires, along with updated documentation.

Key Deadlines to Consider

Adhering to specific deadlines is essential to ensure timely renewal and avoid gaps in employment authorization. We recommend that you submit your renewal application within 180 days of the expiration date on your current EAD to avoid any issues.


It’s also important to note that your initial work permit has a validity period of five years. With this in mind and the current processing times for asylum applications, hopefully, you shouldn’t need to renew it and get approval before.

Required Documentation for Renewals

Asylum seekers must provide updated information and documentation to support their renewal applications. It’s important to note that the fee waiver for your work permit only applies to your initial permit – for renewal, the standard fee we mentioned above applies.

Tips for a Smooth Renewal Process

Navigating the renewal process can be challenging, but following best practices and seeking assistance can facilitate a smoother experience. The main point is to submit your renewal in plenty of time and make sure you file Form I-765 correctly to avoid any delays.


Social Security Numbers

Why Obtaining an SSN is Important for Employment

Obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN) is crucial for employment eligibility and accessing various government services. Without a valid SSN, you will not be able to apply for work at most businesses as this is a standard application requirement.

How to Apply for a Social Security Number as an Asylum Seeker

Asylum seekers can apply for an SSN after receiving their work permits by visiting a Social Security Administration office. The SSA provides a guide for immigrants on the application process.

Delays, Denials, and Other Problems

Common Challenges You May Face During the Application Process

Delays, denials, and other issues can arise during the application process, requiring patience and perseverance to overcome. Common denial reasons include:


  • Incorrect application filing
  • Filing of I-765 before the 150-day waiting period
  • Fraud and misrepresentation
  • Unlawful presence in the USA


There is also the challenge of USCIS backlogs and delays in processing. Oftentimes, you simply have to play the waiting game, which can cause potential financial issues.

Strategies for Addressing Delays, Denials, and Other Issues

Knowing how to address common challenges and seeking legal assistance can help resolve issues and prevent further delays.

The first strategy is to make sure you are up to date with asylum work permit new rules 2024 and beyond. If your knowledge is current, you should have no issue with the process. Secondly, completing form I-765 perfectly is imperative to avoid any delays. Make sure you have all the documentation and all the required info is completed and accurate.

Work Permit For Asylum Seekers In Usa
work permit for asylum seekers in usa

Other Kinds of Work Permits – Not Based on Seeking Asylum

The Employment Authorization Document isn’t the only method of legally obtaining work in the USA – there are alternative work permits that could be a viable option if you are asking the question, can asylum seekers work?

Overview of Alternative Work Permits

Apart from asylum-based work permits, other types of employment authorization may be available to non-asylum seekers. These include temporary non-immigrant Visas, Permanent (Immigrant) Workers, and Student and Exchange Visitors.


  • Temporary Non-Immigrant Visas: H, I, L, O, P, R, and TN visas that are provided to workers within a specific profession. For example, R visas are for religious workers.
  • Permanent Worker Visas: EB-1,2,3,4, and 5 visas that are provided to employees that meet specific criteria such as holding a bachelor’s degree or being classed as someone with “extraordinary ability”.
  • Student and Exchange Visitors: F, M, and J visas that are provided to students.
  • Temporary Visit for Business: Short-term visas for business trips such as those attending a convention or negotiating a business deal.

Comparison to Asylum-Based Work Permits

Understanding the differences between alternative work permits and those based on seeking asylum is essential for informed decision-making. In most instances, alternative work permits are specialist and require a particular skillset, qualification, or industry affiliation. Your attorney asylum lawyer can help assess your situation to see if any of these alternative work permits could be a viable option.

Advocacy Updates for ASAP Members

Members of advocacy organizations can stay informed about policy changes, advocacy efforts, and resources available to support asylum seekers. The ASAP is the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project and it provides a wealth of information relating to work permits, asylum work permit new rules 2024, and support.


It can be a trove of information but there is also a fantastic community you can be a part of with like-minded individuals who are also going through the process and seeking refuge and employment in the U.S. 

Find Legal Help

Seeking assistance from an asylum attorney specializing in immigration law can provide invaluable support and guidance throughout the work permit application process. At Santoskhoury, we understand what it takes to obtain your EAD and can offer the following benefits:


  • Guidance on employment suitability.
  • Aid in completing and filing Form I-765.
  • Ensuring you have the correct documentation.
  • Providing support with denials and delays.


This can be a stressful period, depending on your asylum circumstances, so using the services of an asylum attorney near me can help alleviate some of the burden so you can concentrate fully on building your new life and searching for employment opportunities.

Start Your Employment in the USA as an Asylum Seeker in the Right Way


Navigating the complexities of work permits as an asylum seeker can be challenging, but with a clear understanding of the rules, procedures, and available resources, you can overcome obstacles and pursue employment opportunities in the United States.


The most important takeaways from this article are the minimum 150-day waiting period to apply for the permission to work asylum document, the required documents when filing Form I-765, and the challenges you may face during the process.


We understand that this may seem daunting, and as you are already dealing with your asylum application, seeking legal counsel is a great idea. A qualified and experienced immigration asylum lawyer can coach you through the process and guide you toward realizing your employment dreams in the U.S.


Can I apply for a work permit as an asylum seeker?

Yes, asylum seekers are eligible to apply for work permits after filing a complete asylum application. The only other stipulation is that you must wait 150 days after filing your application before applying for an EAD.


How much does it cost to apply for an initial work permit as an asylum seeker?

The current fee for filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, is $520 for a paper form and $470 for filing online, although fee waivers may be available for those who qualify. In most instances, if you have a pending asylum application, the fee is waived.


How do I complete my work permit application?

Carefully review the instructions provided with Form I-765 and ensure all required information is accurately provided. Also make sure that all the supporting documentation is provided and that you only file the form after the 150-day waiting period has elapsed.


Where should I send my work permit application?

Asylum seekers should send their completed Form I-765 and supporting documentation to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox facility. This varies depending on your geographical location in the U.S. so it’s best to check the USCIS website.


Can I file my initial work permit application (Form I-765) online?

As of the time of writing, USCIS does not currently accept online filing for Form I-765 from asylum seekers. Applicants must submit a paper application by mail.


How can I apply for a work permit for my spouse or child?

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old of asylum seekers may be eligible for derivative work permits by filing Form I-765 along with supporting documentation.


How long will it take to get a response after I submit my initial work permit application?

Processing times vary, but USCIS aims to process initial work permit applications within a few months. However, due to the influx of immigration activity in the U.S. and the backlog of various applications, such as the SIJS work permit, processing can be slower, with an average waiting time of 6-7 months.


How do I check the status of my work permit application?

Applicants can check the status of their work permit application online through the USCIS website using the receipt number provided upon application submission.


I received a decision for my work permit application. What happens next?

If approved, you will receive your work permit by mail. You can then use your Social Security Number to legally seek employment in the United States.


More Posts

Schedule Your Legal Advice Now