Where Is My Work Permit?

When you look at the USCIS Service Center website, you’ll see something interesting. The website states that applications for a work permit (Form I-765 – Application for an Employment Authorization Document or “EAD”) are three weeks for applications under political asylum and three months for all other applications. These times can be said to be a goal of USCIS and not a reality. The reality is that the EAD is not processed in three weeks and often not in three months. If you are lucky, the application will take three months under political asylum and three months to four months for the other applications. If you’re not lucky, it can be much more than that. In fact, it seems that lately the processing for the EAD has become much slower. As a result, some of my clients have lost their driver’s licenses (which are set to expire along with the EAD) and also their jobs. The issue has come to the attention of the American Immigration Lawyers Association AILA (of which I am a member) and they are investigating this issue. So why is this happening? As usual, I have no idea. USCIS does not explain such things. What can be done about it? A few things: • If you are applying to renew your EAD, you should apply as soon as possible. The instructions state that the application can be submitted 120 days before the expiration of your old card. That would probably be a good idea. However, you should be careful not to submit any applications before 120 days in advance. EAD applications submitted too soon could be rejected and this may result in more delay because you have to wait for the rejection notification and then resubmit the application. • If the application for asylum-based EAD has already been filed and the application has been pending for more than 75 days, you can contact USCIS customer service and ask them to start an “Approaching Regulatory Timeframes” service request. USCIS will supposedly route the service request to the appropriate office for review. You should note that if you receive a request for additional evidence (RFE) and then respond, the “clock” starts over for the purposes of calculating the 75-day period. • If you are applying for your first EAD based on a pending asylum case, you can apply for the EAD 150 days after your asylum application was initially filed (the filing date is on your receipt). However, if you have caused a delay in your case (with the continuation of an interview, for example), the delay will affect when the EAD application can be submitted. The instructions for I-765 explain how a delay caused by the applicant affects eligibility for an EAD. Please note that the 150-day waiting period is written into law and cannot be accelerated. • If your case is in Immigration Court, and you cause a delay (by, for example, not accepting the first date of the hearing offered to you), the Asylum Clock may stop, and this may prevent you from receiving an EAD. If your case is in court, you would do well to consult an immigration attorney about your case and your EAD. • If you entered the country through the border and were detained and then released on “parole” (Un Parole), you may be eligible for an EAD because you were paroled in the public interest. This can be complicated, and again, you should consult with an immigration attorney before filing in this category. • If you have asylum, but your EAD expired, fear not: You are still eligible to work. You can present your employer with your I-94 (which you received when you were granted asylum) and a state-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license). • If you are a refugee (in other words, you received refugee status and then came to the United States), you can work for 90 days on the I-94 form. After that, you must present an EAD or a state-issued ID. • If all else fails, you can try contacting the USCIS Ombudsman (an officer charged with investigating the people’s complaints) about the EAD delay. The Ombudsman assists USCIS clients and tries to solve problems. Normally, they want to see that you have made some efforts to solve the problem through regular channels before intervening, but if nothing else is working, they can try to help.