Asylum is a part of U.S. immigration law that allows people fleeing persecution or violence in their home country to live and work in the United States. If you have applied for asylum and your application has been in process for more than 150 days, you can apply for a work permit. This work permit allows you to work in the U.S. while you wait for a decision on your asylum case. You may hear a work permit called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or an employment authorization card. You cannot work without one. After you receive an initial work permit, you can apply to renew your asylum work permit at any time. Once you apply for renewal, USCIS will extend your expiration date by 540 days. This article contains everything you need to know to apply for a U.S. work permit as an asylee and how to renew your asylum work permit.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated December 7, 2022
Who Is Eligible for an Asylum Work Permit?
If your human rights have been violated because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, you can seek asylum protection in the U.S under U.S. immigration law.
As an asylum applicant, you can also apply for employment authorization while you wait for a decision on your pending asylum application. If approved, you will receive a work permit (also known as an employment authorization card) that allows you to work in the U.S. while you wait for the asylum court to approve your case. Not all asylum applicants are eligible for work authorization.
Who Is Eligible?
Asylum work permit eligibility has shifted in recent years under the Biden administration. Under the 2022 system, you can file your asylum work permit application using Form I-765 while your asylum application is pending so long as it’s been 150 days since you filed your asylum application. Also, any USCIS delays in processing must not have been your fault. This means the delay isn’t due to a mistake you made on your application or failure to provide Requests for Evidence.
The current eligibility requirements under the Biden administration are more favorable to asylees than the rules in 2020 under the Trump administration. Under the 2020 rules, asylee applicants could not apply for a work permit until their asylum application had been pending for 365 days or more.
USCIS has more information on the asylum application process. To learn more about employment authorization cards/work permits, read our article “Everything You Need to Know About U.S. Work Permits (EADs).”
Who Is Ineligible?
There are several cases where you cannot apply for work authorization as an asylum seeker.
If your asylum application is already approved, you don't need to apply for a work permit. You can submit the Social Security card the asylum office gave you to your employers as proof that you can work in the U.S. You can also have the asylum office prepare an EAD or employment authorization card for you once your application is approved.
If you are responsible for the extended waiting period in processing your asylum application, you cannot apply for a work permit. These will generally delay your application’s processing. Examples include:
You submitted additional evidence to your application before your asylum interview
You postponed your application interview
You did not show up to your biometrics appointment
If USCIS denies your asylum application in the 150 days after you submit it to them, you cannot apply for a work permit.
If you submitted a work permit application 150 days after submitting your asylum application, and USCIS rejected your initial asylum application, you cannot apply for a work permit.
If you submit your asylum application more than one year after you arrive in the U.S., you cannot apply for a work permit without getting clearance from an immigration judge or asylum officer.
If you have committed a serious non-political crime outside of the U.S., or if you have been convicted of an aggravated felony within the U.S., you are not eligible to apply for a work permit. In such instances, it would be helpful to have an attorney take a look at your case.
When Can You Apply for an Asylum Work Permit?
Once you determine that you are eligible to apply for an asylum work permit, it is time to figure out when you can apply. There are two occasions when you can apply for an asylum employment authorization card (work permit):
When you win your asylum case
When your asylum case has been pending for 150 days
When You Win Your Asylum Case
When you win your asylum case, you are automatically authorized to work in the United States. You do not need to apply for an EAD to prove that you are authorized to work. The Social Security card you receive as part of your asylum documents is all that you will need.
If you would like to have an employment authorization card for use as an I.D., you can apply for one. It would solely be for identification purposes and not to prove clearance for employment.
When Your Asylum Case Has Been Pending for 150 Days
As of Feb. 7, 2022, you can apply for an employment authorization card as an asylum applicant if you haven’t received a decision on your application within 150 calendar days of submitting it to USCIS. This represented a big change from the 2020 rules in which you could only apply for a work permit if your asylum application had been pending for 365 calendar days or more.
When you submit your application for asylum to USCIS, they will typically let you know they have received your application by sending you a receipt notice 2-3 weeks later. The receipt notice will have a receipt date on the top left corner. You can begin counting 150 calendar days from the receipt date to determine if your asylum case has been pending for that long. Once the 150 calendar days pass, you can apply for a work permit.
Remember that you can only apply for the work permit if you did not cause the delay in your asylum application's processing time.
How Do You Apply for an Asylum Work Permit?
To apply for an asylum work permit, you must complete Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization and pay the required filing and biometrics fees.
What Are the Asylum Work Permit Filing Fees?
The is no filing fee for your initial asylum work permit application. Once you have your initial work permit, you will need to pay a filing fee to renew it. You can read more about that in our renewal section below.
What Eligibility Category Do Asylum Seekers Use?
There are different eligibility categories for completing Form I-765. As an asylum seeker, you will be completing Form I-765 under the (c) (8) eligibility category. You will need to enter this as your answer for Question 27 on the form. You must answer every question on Form I-765 so that USCIS doesn’t return it to you for edits or reject it outright. For the items that don't apply to you, you must enter “not applicable” or “N/A.”
What Supporting Documents Do You Need for the Work Permit Application?
When you have completed Form I-765 and chosen a payment method for the filing and biometrics fees, you must assemble the supporting documents required for your work permit application.
You will need the following:
Two recent two-inch by two-inch passport-style photos
Form I-94, Arrivals and Departures Record, if you have one. You can get your I-94 online from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website
A copy of the receipt notice USCIS sent you for your asylum application
A copy of a government-issued I.D. that has your photo and fingerprint on it, OR a copy of your birth certificate and a national I.D. with your picture on it
You can see the full list of required supporting documents that USCIS will accept for the asylum work permit application on the USCIS website.
When you are ready to submit your work permit application, you should assemble the completed Form I-765, payment for the filing and biometric services fees, and all the required supporting documents into an application packet. It’s also useful to include a cover letter that lists all the documents you have in the packet.
You’ll mail your application to a USCIS service center. The service center address you must use depends on where you live.
How Long Does It Take To Get an Asylum Work Permit?
It usually takes 2.5–5 months to get an asylum work permit. USCIS is supposed to decide on an asylum seeker’s initial work permit application within 30 days. However, policy changes and the coronavirus pandemic have caused a major backlog at different USCIS service centers processing times vary significantly from center to center. You can get a good idea of what yours should be by using the USCIS processing time tool.
When USCIS receives your asylum work permit application, they will send you a receipt notice about two to three weeks later. You can track your application's status by entering the receipt number from that notice into the USCIS online case status tracker. We’ve built a free tool to help you understand your application’s status and to connect with an attorney if you need help.
If it has been longer than the estimated processing timeframe for your asylum employment authorization card and you haven’t heard back from USCIS, you can submit an online case inquiry or contact the USCIS service center that is processing your case.
What Happens if Your Work Permit Application Is Approved?
If USCIS approves your work permit application, they will mail your work authorization card to the address you provided on your application. Your new work permit will be the size of an I.D. card. In addition to other identifying information, the front of the card will have an expiration date. You cannot work in the U.S. after that expiration date. You should plan to renew your work permit well before the expiration date if your asylum application is still pending. See more about the renewal process below.
If your asylum application is approved and you decide to renew your employment authorization card, you can do so under the asylee eligibility category. You can also eventually apply for a green card if USCIS approves your initial application for asylum. The green card will function as both an I.D. and a work permit.
What Can You Do if Your Work Permit Application Is Denied?
If USCIS denies your application, you can get an immigration lawyer's help to open a motion with USCIS to reconsider the denial.
What’s the Process for Renewing Your Asylum Work Permit?
If you’ve already received an initial asylum work permit, you can simply apply to renew your work permit before the expiration date. As of May 2022, renewals last for 540 days, or about a year and a half. Before this, renewals only lasted 180 days or half a year.
When Do You Need To Renew Your Asylum Work Permit?
USCIS recommends sending in your work permit renewal application at least 90 days before your work permit expires. But since it can take USCIS a while to process renewal applications, it’s advisable to send in your renewal application at least six months before the expiration date on your current asylum work authorization card. This helps ensure you keep your legal right to work and that you don’t have a period of time where your work permit is invalid.
When USCIS receives your application, it should send you a receipt notice. The good news is that once you have the receipt notice, your work permit is automatically extended for 540 days. As long as USCIS receives your application on or before the expiration date, your work permit will be automatically renewed for 540 days.
If your employer has any questions about your legal right to work, you can tell them your renewal application is pending with USCIS and show them the receipt notice you received.
How Do You Renew Your Asylum Work Permit?
To renew your asylum work permit, you’ll need to send in an application along with supporting documents.
Here’s what you’ll need to include in your application packet:
A copy of your current work permit (front and back)
Two passport-size photos with your name and Alien Registration Number (A-Number) written on the back
A copy of a government-issued ID, such as a passport, in English or with a certified English translation
$410 filing fee or Form I-912: Request for Fee Waiver
*When renewing, be sure to check box 1.c. on Form I-765.
If you’d like to receive e-mail or text message notifications about your application’s status, you can also include Form G-1145: e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.
How Much Does It Cost To Renew Your Asylum Work Permit?
There is a $410 filing fee for asylum work permit renewal applications. Note that this fee is only for renewals. The initial application for an asylum work permit is free. There is also no biometrics fee for initial or renewal applications.
You can pay the fee by money order or a check payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” You can also pay your fee with a credit or debit card, but you must include Form G-1450 in your application packet to do so. This authorizes USCIS to charge your card.
If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee, you can also apply for a fee waiver. As mentioned above, you need to include Form I-912: Request for Fee Waiver with your application packet. Note that if USCIS doesn’t approve your fee waiver, your work permit application will also be rejected and you’ll have to reapply. This is one reason it’s a good idea to file your renewal application six months or more before your work permit expires.
USCIS filing fees do change occasionally. The $410 fee is accurate as of September 2022. On Aug. 3, 2020, USCIS published a final rule that aimed to increase filing fees. The new fees were supposed to start on Oct. 2, 2020, but a California federal court has prevented the new immigration policy from being enforced. If the district court lifts the enforcement ban, it will cost a total of $580 to get an Asylum work permit. This includes a $550 filing fee for Form I-765 and a $30 biometrics fee (if applicable).
How Long Does It Take To Get Your Work Permit Renewal Approved?
Assuming you’ve submitted your renewal application 90 days (or more) before the expiration date on your current work permit, USCIS is supposed to decide on the status of your work permit application before the expiration date. This would allow you to continue working legally without interruption.
Unfortunately, it sometimes takes USCIS longer than 90 days to process these renewal applications. This is why it’s smart to submit your asylum work permit renewal application six months or more before your current work permit expires. Remember that as soon as you receive a receipt notice from USCIS, your work permit is automatically extended by 540 days.
To check the status of your application, you can look at the USCIS Case Status tool. You’ll need your receipt number to check your status. You can also call USCIS to check your case status at 1-800-375-5283. You can also check case processing times for Form I-765. You’ll need to enter the field office or service center location where you sent your application to. Then USCIS will show you how long it’s taking to process work permit applications at this location.
Can You Work After Your Work Permit Expires/While Waiting for Renewal?
Usually, yes. If you submitted your renewal application on time, you can continue to use your current work permit for 540 days past its expiration date. “On time” means that you sent your renewal application to USCIS before the expiration date on your current employment authorization card.