U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) recently made two significant changes to its rules regarding work permits for those seeking asylum in the U.S.
First and most significantly, USCIS changed who is eligible to apply for a work permit based on a pending asylum case. This new rule will go into effect on August 25, 2020.
Currently, asylum applicants can apply for a work permit when their asylum application has been pending for 150 days. Under the new rule, asylum applicants will have instead have to wait 365 days. This includes any applicant whose asylum application has been pending for less than 150 days on August 25, 2020.
The new rule also prohibits individuals who enter or attempt to enter the U.S. illegally on or after August 25, 2020 from applying for a work permit based on a pending asylum application. There is a limited exception for those who: (1) present themselves to an agent of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 48 hours after entry or attempted entry, (2) indicate an intent to apply for asylum or express a fear of persecution or torture, and (3) otherwise had good cause for illegal entry or attempted entry. Individuals paroled into the U.S. after credible fear interviews and those with pending federal court petitions will also no longer be eligible.
Also, the new rule prohibits individuals who file an application for asylum after the statutory one-year filing deadline from applying for a work permit. They will instead have to wait until an asylum officer or an immigration judge determines they meet one of the exceptions for late filing. This provision even applies to those in otherwise valid nonimmigrant status.
Under this new rule, USCIS has the discretion to limit the validity periods of work permits. Although USCIS can still issue work permits for up to two-years at a time, it will now be able to issue work permits for shorter periods of time.
Finally, USCIS will automatically cancel or revoke work permits in two circumstances. When an Asylum Office issues a denial of an asylum application. Or 30 days after an immigration judge denies an asylum claim, unless appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
The second significant change, which goes into effect on August 21, 2020, is to the process for filing for an asylum based work permit. Currently, individuals with a pending asylum case may only file to renew their work permit 90 days before the expiration of their current work permit. Also, USCIS has only 30 days to process their application. Under the new rule, USCIS will no longer have a mandated processing timeline. However, applicants will now be permitted to file their applications up to 180 days before the expiration of their current work permit.
If you believe you may be affected by any of these changes, please contact one of our immigration attorneys for a consultation to see if you may be eligible to apply before these changes go into effect.