Can an Asylum Applicant Work in the United States?

Asylum applicants cannot apply for work permits at the same time as filing their asylum applications. Rather, they must wait 150 days from the date they filed their properly completed original asylum applications. The emphasis in on completed. If you are still in the process of adding supporting documents to your application, it is not considered completed, and you may not request authorization to work while your application is pending. Missing interviews, meetings, or fingerprinting appointments can all cause the clock to stop on the 150 day waiting period. Make sure that you stay on top of any deadlines. If you have a change in your contact information, like address or phone number, make sure that you contact your attorney and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to update that information so that they send your notices and requests to a location where you are sure to receive them.

Authorization to Work Before Asylum Is Granted

Once your application is completed and you are awaiting approval, you may request authorization to work. To request authorization, you will need to complete Form I-765. Generally, asylum applicants requesting employment authorization are not required to pay a filing fee. The INS has 30 days to either grant or deny a request for employment.

Authorization to Work After Asylum Granted

If, by some chance, your asylum application is moving quickly and you are close to receiving your grant of asylum, you may just want to wait until your asylum application is approved. Once you are granted asylum, you will receive an employment authorization document because of your approved status. This means that you don’t have to go through the hassle of submitting a separate work application. 

Do Not Work Without Authorization

Even though financially stressful, you will have to go through a period without working. If you work without authorization, or falsify documents with an employer to get work, you could be subject to sanctions including denial of your application and removal proceedings. If you are not sure about your status, err on the side of caution and consult with an immigration attorney who can help navigate you through the asylum process.