Asylum applicants and U.S. Immigration attorneys frequently experience problems across the country with the “asylum clock” – a clock which measures the 150 day period after an applicant files for asylum before the applicant can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
These problems include a lack of clear guidance about how immigration agencies – both EOIR and USCIS – should interpret and implement the law governing the clock, the lack of a formal review process when an EAD is denied, and a general lack of transparency in USCIS’ administration of the clock. As a result of these problems and increasing court backlogs, asylum applicants often wait much longer than the legally permitted timeframe to receive a work permit and are thus unable to support themselves and their families while their applications are pending.
Q: What issues does the Settlement Agreement address and how does it resolve these issues?
A: There are five asylum Employment Authorization Document (EAD) clock problems that the Settlement Agreement addresses. The following is a summary of these issues and the manner in which the Settlement Agreement resolves each problem. This FAQ has a more detailed discussion of the resolution of each problem in Questions 4 and 5 below.
Delay in starting the asylum EAD clock has caused by an arbitrary rule that asylum applications can only be filed at a hearing before an Immigration Judge (IJ).
Problem: The Asylum EAD Clock only starts when a complete application is filed. EOIR rules previously only allowed an applicant to file an asylum application at a hearing before an IJ, rather than with the court clerk, unlike other applications. Since court dockets are backlogged, applicants often must wait extended periods for their immigration court hearings before they can file their applications and start their asylum EAD clocks.
Resolution: An applicant will be able to “lodge” an asylum application with an immigration court clerk at a time other than a hearing. A “lodged” application will be considered “filed” for purposes of the asylum EAD clock, and the “lodged” date will start the asylum EAD clock. The asylum application will still need to be “filed” in a hearing before an IJ. In the interim, however, the asylum EAD clock will be running and an individual with 150 days accumulated after the “lodged” date will be eligible to submit an application for Employment Authorization to USCIS.
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