People escaping political turmoil, violence and other danger by seeking safety in the United States may be eligible for asylum. If you file Form I-589 and your application is approved, you will receive the right to remain in the U.S. legally. 

If you are granted asylum you may work immediately while if you are waiting longer than 150 days you will be eligible to apply for  Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a work permit. Below, we explore what you need to know about securing an EAD so that you can start your new life in the U.S. 

What is an EAD? 

An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is a work permit, issued in the form of a small card, that proves an individual’s right to work in the U.S. for a specific period of time. All U.S. employers are required by law to ensure that employees, regardless of citizenship or national origin, can work in the United States. 

Can you apply for an EAD while under asylum? 

Getting asylum in the US is often a long process. Today, asylum seekers wait an average of two years for a decision, according to Syracuse University.

In the past, asylum applicants were allowed to receive an EAD as soon as they submitted an application and while their case was being considered; however, rules have changed in recent years. 

Now, in order to receive an EAD, you must either win your asylum case—which may take anywhere from weeks to months to years—or be waiting 180 days or more without an initial decision on your asylum application. After 150 days you are deemed eligible to apply, after which USCIS must process your application within 30 days. Below, we explain the process in both scenarios. 

Winning asylum

If you are granted asylum, you are typically automatically eligible to work in the U.S. and don’t have to apply for an EAD. Some asylees still choose to apply for EADs for convenience or identification purposes, but they are not necessary to work if you win your case. Instead, you can apply for a Social Security card that may be presented to an employer as proof that you’re legally allowed to work in the U.S.

To obtain a Social Security card, visit a local office of the Social Security Administration. You can find location details on the online Social Security Office Locator. Alternatively, if you don’t have Internet access, you can call 1-800-722-1213. You will usually have to bring a completed Form SS-5, Application for Social Security Card, as well as a copy of your approved asylum grant and proof of your identity such as a passport or a state-issued ID card.

After applying for a Social Security card, you will be issued a receipt containing your Social Security number. You may use this receipt until you have received the official card as proof of your Social Security Number when seeking employment or other public benefits. 

150 days after applying for asylum

You may apply for an EAD if you’ve successfully filed Form I-589 and 150 days have passed since your application and a decision has not yet been reached. At this stage, USCIS is obligated to process your application for an EAD within 30 days. 

How to apply for an EAD 

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you may apply for an EAD while under asylum by first obtaining Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, which can be found on the USCIS website. Alternatively, you may request a copy of Form I-765 to be sent to your address by calling 1-800-375-5283.

The form is accompanied by detailed instructions, so it may be a good idea to take your time reading through them. Below, we provide an overview that may assist you with completing an application for an EAD. 

  • Type or legibly print your answers in black ink
  • Do not leave any spaces blank. If a question does not apply to you, write “not applicable,” “N/A” or “none” in the space provided 
  • Select category (c)(8) to indicate that you applied for asylum and that your application has been pending for a period of 150 days or more, or that USCIS issued you a “recommended approval letter” 
  • Include any evidence demonstrating that you have already filed an asylum application
  • Provide necessary supporting documents, including Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, and two identical, colored passport-style photographs that were taken within a 30-day period after filing your application. Print your first and last name, as well as your Alien Registration Number (A-number) on the back of each photograph 
  • A copy of a government-issued document that proving your identity, such as a birth certificate, visa, passport, or a state-issued identification card
  • Sign the form in black ink as printed or stamped signatures are not typically accepted 

Is there a filing fee? 

For asylum applicants who are filing Form I-765 for the first time, there is currently no filing fee. However, if you’re an asylum applicant and applying to renew your work permit, then you may have to pay the filing fee of $410. This amount can be paid by personal check, cashier’s check, credit card, and money gram. 

If you’re unable to afford the filing fee, then you may be eligible for a fee waiver. If so, you may complete and submit Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver. If your request for a fee waiver is rejected by USCIS, you will receive a request for payment.

Where to file Form I-765

You may send the completed Form I-765 and necessary supporting documents, as well as the fee (if applicable) to one of the following addresses:

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

USCIS

Attn: I-1765

P.O. Box 650888

Dallas, TX 75265-0888


For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS

Attn: I-765

2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business

Suite 400

Lewisville, TX 75067

What is the processing time? 

The processing time for EAD applications for asylum applicants varies. In most cases, an applicant may expect a notification of a decision regarding the work permit application within 30 days after USCIS has received the application. If 30 days has passed and you haven’t received a decision yet, then you may request for an interim EAD at a local USCIS office. Applicants with an approved application may expect to receive their work permit directly while denied applicants will receive a notification.

Please note that recent policy proposals have now changed the timeline for processing EADs. A newly proposed rule may eliminate the regulatory requirement that USCIS respond to first-time applications for employment authorization by asylum applicants within 30 days of filing. This shift could delay the processing of EAD applications by several months, which could pose several challenges for asylum seekers. Follow news reports for more updates as this situation continues to change. 

The takeaway

For more resources on how to navigate your new life in the U.S., visit Nova Credit’s resource library where you can learn about everything from renting an apartment to finding the best credit cards for noncitizens.