Immigration

There’s a new hurdle for U.S. asylum seekers. This one involves work permits

An Employment Authorization Document, also known as a U.S. work permit.
An Employment Authorization Document, also known as a U.S. work permit. USCIS

Asylum seekers in the United States have benefited for many years from a regulatory provision in immigration law allowing them to receive Employment Authorization (EAD) within 30 days after applying for it, regardless of whether their case has been approved.

Having a work permit makes it easier for these immigrants to earn a living legally and obtain a Social Security number, among other perks.

But, the speed with which USCIS awards work permits can sometimes be an incentive for people who may be attempting to defraud the legal immigration system, says the agency.

Now, DHS wants to change the way it processes work authorization requests and renewals for asylum applicants, as detailed in a notice published in the Federal Register.

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The proposed rulemaking, published on Monday, seeks to remove the current 30-day timeline from the date an asylum seeker files Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization to grant or deny this benefit.

DHS also wants to modify the provision requiring that applicants submit their renewal requests to USCIS 90 days before the expiration of their employment authorization, according to the notice.

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The changes “will allow USCIS the time needed to receive, screen, and process applications, which in turn would strengthen national security, maintain technological advances in identity verification, and further deter those who may be attempting to defraud the legal immigration system,” the agency said in a press release.

USCIS notes that the 30-day timeline forces it to “divert resources away from other legal immigration application processing categories,” such as family members of certain high skilled employees and those seeking adjustment of status to get a green card.

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Brian J. Hoffman, a staff attorney for Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services, told el Nuevo Herald that “DHS’s proposal to give itself more time to adjudicate work permit applications for desperate asylum-seekers is but another example of how a government with nearly unlimited resources is making things easier on itself while at the same time making the asylum process almost impossibly burdensome for the most vulnerable members of society.”

“This rule change would allow DHS to take much longer to decide whether someone seeking asylum should be issued a work permit, requiring asylum-seekers to essentially survive on others’ charity while our government processes paperwork,” added Hoffman, who works in the Diocese of Cleveland.

Read more: These policy changes will impact legal immigrants in the U.S. in 2019

Current regulations about work permits already, “Put immigrants requesting asylum status in a difficult position as they are forced to decide between not working for many months or finding temporary work under the table,” said Elina M. Santana, a local immigration attorney and a member of the South Florida chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) to el Nuevo Herald. “The proposed regulation would only augment the difficulties they face.”

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In Santana’s view, the rule “is one more brick in the invisible wall that this administration has created to exclude immigrants, especially those that come fleeing poverty, political issues, and the violence of their home countries.”

The U.S. asylum system has undergone several changes over the past year. The one that had the greatest impact in South Florida is the modification in the order of the interviews, starting with the people who submitted applications more recently, instead of following a chronological order.

The affirmative asylum interview scheduling change aims is “to deter individuals from using asylum backlogs solely to obtain employment authorization by filing frivolous, fraudulent or otherwise non-meritorious asylum applications,” the federal agency said back then in a statement.

Read more: The U.S. government is targeting hundreds of thousands who have overstayed their visas

Daniel Shoer Roth is a journalist covering immigration law who does not offer legal advice or individual assistance to applicants. Follow him on Twitter @DanielShoerRoth. The contents of this story do not constitute legal advice.

Read more about legal and immigration issues in Spanish at AccesoMiami.com

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Daniel Shoer Roth es un galardonado autor, biógrafo y periodista con 20 años en la plantilla de el Nuevo Herald, donde se ha desempeñado como reportero, columnista de noticias y actual productor de crecimiento digital. También es coordinador de AccesoMiami.com, una guía sobre todo lo que necesitas saber sobre Miami, asuntos legales e inmigración.
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