Seeking Asylum can be a lengthy process and currently, both the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Immigration Courts are backlogged, so you may be waiting for months or years until you hear back. Many asylum seekers ask can I work while my asylum case is pending or will getting a job affect the outcome of my case?

During that time, an applicant may want to start working to make some income, but the only way that an asylum seeker can work legally in the United States is if they win their asylum case or have an EAD (employment authorization document). 

Applicants whose asylum application is pending may be eligible to work in the U.S if they have waited for a specific time frame. As of February 8, 2022, they need to wait at least 150 days after they have filed their I-589, Application for Asylum, and for Withholding of Removal. This article will discuss the process of obtaining employment in the United States. 

Pending Asylum Applicants Work Permit

If you have a pending asylum application and are waiting to hear back, you will be eligible to apply for an asylum work permit after 150 calendar days from the date you filed your asylum application to USCIS or the Immigration Court. You can begin counting the day from the date stamped on your receipt given to you by USCIS. 

After waiting 150 days you are eligible to file Form I-765 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to apply for an EAD. This document gives you the authorization to work in the United States for a specific time period. However, you are not eligible to receive employment until your asylum application can be pending for over 180 days; this is commonly known as the 180- Day Asylum EAD clock, which does not include any delays you may have requested. You cannot apply for asylum and an EAD concurrently, you are required to meet the total (150 days) waiting period. 

Note: If you have been granted “Asylum Status,” you will not need to apply for an EAD. You will continue the process by applying for a social security card which will grant you authorization to legally work anywhere in the United States. The asylum office will most likely begin that process for you, but if they do not, contact them to speak with someone who can help you expedite those procedures. 

How to Apply for a Work Permit When Seeking Asylum

To apply for a work permit (EAD) as an asylum seeker with a pending application, you will need to file and submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization either online on the USCIS website or you can contact them if you chose to do it by paper. Call 800-375-5283 for more info.

Carefully read the directions and fill out the required information. If you neglect to leave any blank spaces that are required, your application may be rejected and returned for revision. 

In this application, you will be required to submit other documents including your receipt notice from USCIS, showing proof that your Form I-589, Application for Asylum, and Withholding of Removal was received. 

Asylum Work Permit Document Checklist may include:

  • File Form G-1145
  • File Form I-765
  • Two Passport-style photos
  • Applicant’s Passport Bio Page
  • Applicant’s US Visa Page
  • Applicant’s I-94
  • Applicant’s I-589 Receipt Notice
  • Applicant’s Biometrics Notice
  • A copy of your last EAD - if you are applying for a renewal or replacement

Other documents for your specific case may also be required. Make sure to read the instructions carefully and ask questions before submitting your application. Contact an experienced attorney to help you navigate through this process.

Whether you are re-applying for an initial or a renewal EAD, you will also need to schedule a biometric services appointment. This is a requirement and part of the application process. 

If you do not attend your biometric services appointment, you may be ineligible for employment authorization. For more specific instructions read How to Apply for a Work Permit as an Asylum Applicant. 

Regardless of whether you apply online or by mail, the processing and waiting period is the same. It can take between 3-5 months before you hear anything back about your EAD application. However, some cases are being processed promptly and you may see your application approved within 30 days. Check your application status on the USCIS's case status page or call the USCIS Contact Center

Once you receive approval, expect your EAD to be mailed to you. It will look similar to a driver’s license. This document (EAD) proves that you are eligible to work anywhere in the United States and you can immediately begin working. The EAD is good for up to two years. 

 In the case that you are denied, USCIS will send a notice with the reason(s) explaining why it was denied. Unfortunately, you cannot appeal the denial but submit a motion to reconsider. If you prefer not to do this alone, consult an immigration attorney, they will be able to help you assemble all the documents and ensure your application is ready to be sent.  

Getting a job while asylum is pending FAQs

Do I need an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to Start Working in the U.S. If My Asylum Application is Granted?

No, you do not. If your asylum application has been granted, you do not need an EAD to start working in the U.S. As soon as you received your EAD, you can begin working.

Can I Work if My Asylum Application is Pending?

Asylum applicants that are waiting for a response from USCIS do not qualify for a work permit (EAD) until they have either won their asylum case or have waited 150 days without an approval decision. After this waiting period, they can apply for an EAD by filing Form I-765 Employment Authorization Document. You will not be eligible to receive a work permit until your asylum application has been pending for 180 days. You can expect to hear a response after this waiting period.  

What Do I Need to Apply for an EAD When My Asylum Application is Pending?

You will need to file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and get it approved. Read further instructions here. Once approved, you can begin working in the U.S for a specific time. Your EAD will expire in two years.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Work Permit for Asylum?

The average wait time to hear back on your EAD can be anywhere from one to four (1-4) months. However, there are some cases that are being processed within 30 days. To check your status, visit the USCIS website.