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When an asylum application is pending

A common hope among individuals applying for asylum here in the U.S. is that their request will be considered in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, things sometimes end up going a very different way. It is possible for an asylum seeker to experience a significant delay in a decision being reached in their case. When in the midst of such a delay, there are many questions a person might have, including: Can I get permission to work in the U.S. while I am waiting for a decision on my asylum request?

There is a process though which asylum applicants can apply for work authorization while their asylum request is pending. However, whether a person is eligible to enter into this process is dependent on multiple factors.

One is how long the delay in a decision being reached has thus far gone. An asylum applicant can only apply for work authorization if their asylum request has been pending for at least 150 days since they submitted it in its completed form.

Another impactful factor is the nature of the delay. A given delay will not count towards the winding down of the above-mentioned 150-day restriction period if the delay was caused by the asylum applicant. This is among the reasons why self-inflicted delays can be particularly problematic for asylum seekers.

If a person whose asylum application is pending does qualify to apply for a work permit and is ultimately granted such a permit, how long does it last? This recently changed. It used to be that such a permit was initially valid for one year. However, a recent policy change has made it so any permit granted in connection to a work authorization request by an asylum applicant that was pending as of, filed on or filed after Oct. 5, 2016 has a validity period of two years.

As this illustrates, there are numerous things that can impact the options an asylum seeker has while their request for asylum is pending. To ensure they have a firm understanding of the options open to them, an asylum applicant may want to have skilled legal guidance throughout the process of seeking asylum.

Sources: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “USCIS Increases Validity of Work Permits to Two Years for Asylum Applicants,” Oct. 6, 2016

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Asylum,” Accessed Oct. 24, 2016

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