USCIS Proposes Reforms for Better Work Authorization Requests Processing for Asylum Seekers


On September 6, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) informed the public of its proposal to improve regulation of the processing of the initial application for employment authorization documents (EADs) through changing the present 30-day timeline for those with a pending asylum application.

Working With a Pending Asylum Application

Asylum SeekersAsylum awards those who seek its legal immigration status. It is granted to refugees who have fled their home country to escape persecution or harm. The asylum status is for foreign nationals already in the United States. Many undocumented aliens without proper immigrant visa seek asylum to avoid deportation to their country of nationality. Some of them may be ineligible, hence the importance of a strict screening and vetting process. While their application is processed, they need the authorization to work in order to lawfully sustain themselves.

Under US immigration laws, authorization to work is only granted to certain immigrants. To be able to work in the United States, they have to apply for an Employment Authorization Document or EAD. In the past, asylum seekers were granted an Employment Authorization card upon the submission of their asylum application, giving them eligibility to work while their case was still being processed, but the rules changed many years ago.

Current Work Authorization Process

These days, to get a work permit, an asylee must be granted asylum, which could take years, but would allow access to an unrestricted Social Security number. The Social Security card can be used in employment verification for an employment opportunity that presents itself. The other option is to wait 180 days or more with no decision on the asylum application, and then apply for permission to work, which has a 30-day processing timeline.

Proposed Changes in Employment Authorization Process

The proposed reforms will give USCIS more time to receive and process work authorization applications, consequently offering a better contribution to the fortification of national security, implementing technological advances in verifying identities, and more effectively deterring attempts to commit fraud against the legal immigration system.

The current 30-day processing timeline was put in place more than two decades ago before 9/11. There have since been additional steps and requirements in the screening and vetting process to ensure public safety and national security by reducing fraud as well as identifying threats. Presently, the timeline no longer reflects operational realities that USCIS faces in adjudicating applications for employment authorization. The agency prioritizes preserving the integrity of the American legal immigration system and safeguarding it from those who plan to exploit and abuse it, something that its proposed vetting and identity verification systems will allow them to more effectively and efficiently achieve.

The pending asylum applicants’ initial application for employment authorization is the only employment authorization application category that the USCIS has to process and adjudicate within a timeline. The need to meet this timeline causes the agency to often divert resources away from other important application processing categories for legal immigration, including applications from those after adjustment of status to obtain green cards and from foreign national family members of certain high-skilled employees.

USCIS’s proposal also includes changing the provision requiring applicants to submit requests for renewal 90 days before their current employment authorization expires. This, in effect, would lessen confusion on renewal requirements for those with pending asylum applications, thereby minimizing possible gaps in their employment and ensuring consistency with the policies of the 2017 American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21).

For further details on this immigration news, refer to the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), which was published in the Federal Register on September 9, 2019. Public feedback on the proposed reforms is encouraged and USCIS recommends taking advantage of the comment period before it ends on November 8, 2019.

Need Advice for Immigration Concerns? Call an Immigration Attorney Today!

For those needing work permits while awaiting a decision on their asylum applications, immigration lawyers can assist in obtaining employment authorization. Do not jeopardize your bid for legal immigrant status by becoming an undocumented worker. You do not want to be on the bad side of the Department of Homeland Security, so pursue legal options. Consult a lawyer for the right steps to take whatever your case may be.

For guidance on immigration law, from getting visas, lawful permanent resident status, citizenship status or naturalization to stopping deportation and apprehension, call us at Diener Law to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer.

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