Unemployment benefits for asylum seekers are available to those fleeing persecution and entering the country as a refugee or asylee. Asylum seekers can receive unemployment benefits depending on their work status and also what state they reside. In order to qualify for any unemployment, you need to be eligible to work in the United States.  In this post, we will review the question "can asylum seekers apply for unemployment?"

If you do not have a work permit or authorization to work in the United States, you do not qualify for unemployment. However, there are some states that will offer assistance and benefits, you will need to check with them. 

In certain circumstances, the government may issue you a temporary EAD while you wait for the final decision on your asylum application from USCIS. Contact your immigration attorney to see if your case is eligible. 

Eligibility & Requirements for Unemployment

To be eligible for unemployment you need to have work authorization which can be in the form of 

Another requirement is that you must be able and available to work meaning you are physically able to perform the job duties assigned to you.

Before you apply for unemployment ensure that you have looked at the minimum eligibility. You need to work a certain number of weeks and hours (each week) to qualify for any unemployment benefits. Those factors will determine how much you will be collecting. If you do not meet the minimum days and hours, you may not be granted any benefits. The hours and weeks recorded will be based during the time you had legal work authorization, any other time than that does not count towards your eligibility. 

Will Filing for Unemployment Affect Any of My Asylum Case 

No, any pending application or even future applications will not be affected if you have applied for unemployment nor will it be a public charge. If you have a work permit and you paid your taxes, you are in every right to apply and seek unemployment benefits. 

How to file for Unemployment as an Asylum Seeker

To apply for unemployment contact your state’s unemployment insurance agency. In most states you apply online or over the phone. Your unemployment application will require personal information such as your address and dates of your last employer. If you worked in multiple states, the state unemployment insurance office can direct you to file the proper documents. 

After you file your claim, it will usually take 2-3 weeks to receive any form of payment, however, some states may take a little longer to process.

For example if you are filing in the state of Texas you need to apply for benefits through the Texas State Commissioner webpage. 

 To file an unemployment benefits claim in Texas you will need the following information: 

You Will Need:

  • Your last employer's business including name and address
  • First and last dates you worked for your last employer. This includes the month, day and year. 
  • Number of hours worked and pay rate if you worked this week (this includes Sunday)
  • Any information related to your earnings/wage
  • Alien Registration Number (if not a U.S. citizen or national). 
  • A valid Texas Driver's License number or Texas Identification Card number (may not be applicable if you do not have one). 

Check out our post covering if asylum seekers can get a driver license if you think you need one.

Other requirements may be asked during the application process. It’s important to have all the documents and information ready in case more information is requested. 

Application status varies by state, in the state of Texas it can take anywhere from 4-8 weeks to hear back. It’s best to apply for unemployment as soon as you are able to.  Visit the Texas Workforce Commission's Unemployment Benefit Services page

What if I am Undocumented and have No Work Permit?

Unfortunately, if you are undocumented and you have no work permit you are not eligible for any unemployment benefits or federal resources. Some states may offer other types of resources but you will need to find out if your state has any. Visit State-by-State Unemployment Benefits Finder website for more information. 

In the past states like California have offered assistance to residents regardless of their immigration status, but as of now, there have not been any states with this same resource. You may also research other organizations within your state, they may be able to provide additional resources if you have lost your job.  For more of those resources, check out this nationwide list that UndocuScholars put out.  

Can Asylum Seekers Apply For Unemployment FAQs 

Can an Asylum Seeker get Unemployment Benefits?

An asylum seeker can get unemployment benefits as long as they have work authorization. However, some states have other rules and other requirements. Visit the State-by-State Unemployment Benefits Finder.

Does Unemployment Affect my Asylum Application? 

No, unemployment does not affect your Asylum Application or any future application (i.e. adjustment of status). Unemployment is earned by working, paying taxes, and earning employment benefits. 

Can you Apply for a Work permit while Waiting for Asylum?

Yes, your asylum application has to have been pending for a total of 150 days before you can apply for a work permit (EAD).

Can I Move Within America if My Asylum Case is Pending?

Yes, you can move freely to any state in the U.S  while your asylum application is pending. If you do, ensure that you notify USCIS with your new address as soon as possible.