The Trump administration before his departure had issued rules that made it more difficult for asylum seekers to obtain employment authorization or work permits.

These rules required asylum seekers to wait 365 days after applying for asylum before they could apply for a work permit, whereas asylum seekers had to wait until then, only 180 days.

Those thousands of asylum seekers who were not sure if they would qualify for a work permit had no choice but to seek advice from an immigration lawyer.

Thus began a long and complicated legal battle. After winning a legal battle against President Donald Trump’s administration over work authorization, asylum seekers are alarmed by long delays in renewing work permits that threaten to deprive hundreds of people of jobs in the United States. Understand everything in a few lines.

People may apply for asylum in the United States if they have suffered or fear persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in certain social groups.

While their application is pending, they can obtain work authorization from USCIS, valid for two years.

The agency’s regulations allow for an automatic extension of up to 180 days for asylum seekers whose work authorization has expired while their application is pending.

But what is really happening ?

But over the past year, and despite a change in administration, wait times have reached 10 months, according to the proposed class action.
The plaintiffs seek a court order requiring USCIS to adjudicate class members’ work authorization requests within the automatic 180 day extension period.

What types of jobs do the majority of asylum seekers hold?

The jobs held by asylum seekers range from truck drivers, critical to already struggling supply chains, to healthcare positions in high demand in the midst of the pandemic.

These delays will therefore have an impact not only on asylum seekers, but also on the U.S. economy. These delays are comparable to those experienced by spouses of high-skilled visa holders, who lost their jobs due to similar wait times for work documents.

What does the law say about extensions ?

Asylum seekers are eligible for an automatic 180-day extension of their work authorization if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services does not process the extension requests before the work authorization expires.
But with wait times routinely exceeding six months for asylum seekers, concern over these delays.

What actions are being taken by asylum-seeker advocacy groups ?

Immigration advocates have filed a lawsuit against USCIS over wait times, arguing that delays in processing these routine applications have become unreasonable.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, the lawsuit follows another lawsuit filed by immigration advocates to stop regulations issued by the Trump administration that would have limited the ability of new asylum seekers to obtain initial work authorization in the United States.

Some harms

Delays by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have slowed benefit turnaround times across the board, according to the plaintiffs, although continued employment is particularly important to asylum seekers, said Emma Winger, an attorney at the U.S. Immigration Council and counsel for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The total number of work authorization applications received annually from asylum seekers has increased significantly in recent years. During 2014, USCIS received approximately 110,000 initial applications and renewals from these applicants. In FY 2019, the total number received exceeded 556,000, according to data released by the agency. Applicant wait times generally ranged from 2.6 to just under 4 months between FY 2017 and FY 2021.

But in December 2020, wait times to renew work authorization began to exceed six months. Policy changes in recent years have increased the review of various immigration benefits at USCIS, adding to delays across the board, according to claimant advocates.

A Government Accountability Office report released this year found that the agency has not put plans in place or identified resources to deal with the glut of pending cases.

Public commitments

Once work authorization applications receive a final decision, more than 90 percent of them are approved, said David Bier, a Cato Institute researcher.

The problem is that USCIS is not meeting its public commitments to process these applications within 180 days, he added. Winger, of the American Immigration Council, noted that asylum seekers facing job loss now were approved under the Trump administration two years ago.

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