How to obtain a work permit when applying for asylum?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I answer a question from a reader who wants to obtain a work permit while applying for asylum in immigration court.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on the immigration history of each person. Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before beginning any process.

This is the column:

Thank you for your excellent work at the service of those of us who need help. I am Guatemalan and I entered the United States in early 2013 with a tourist visa. I came fleeing Guatemala because of the death threats I received in my country. I requested asylum from the immigration authorities and they let me leave with permission after being detained for a month. I have had appointments with the immigration judge in October 2013 and May 2014. My next appointment is in May 2015. Can I immediately apply for a work permit or do I have to wait until I win my immigration case? -Alonso C.

Alonso, you may be able to apply for a work permit while your asylum case is being decided.

Immigration law requires that you have a valid work permit to work in the United States. It is important that you do not work without authorization while applying for asylum. If you do, you would be violating the terms of your application and the time you are living in the U.S. would be treated as undocumented time. This can affect you if you travel out of the country before you receive your permanent residency.

For asylum applications filed after January 4, 1995, work permits are not granted until 180 days after an application is filed.

You cannot apply for a work permit before 150 days have passed from the date you submitted a completed application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or an immigration judge.

If 150 days have passed and the asylum case has not been decided, the applicant may request a work permit from USCIS using the Form I-765. The government has 30 days to approve or deny the application.

If the asylum application is denied within 180 days of filing, the work permit application will also be denied. If more than 180 days pass and there is no decision in the asylum case, the applicant should receive an interim work permit that will be valid during the time it takes for review and possible appeals in the case.

Alonso, in your question you do not clarify when you filed your asylum application. Your immigration attorney or the immigration court may be able to provide you with this information. Also, you should call the immigration court's automated information line at 1-800-898-7180 to find out the status of your case.

If more than 150 days have passed since you filed your asylum application and there is still no decision in your case, then you may be eligible to ask the USCIS for a work permit. Please consult with an immigration attorney for personalized legal advice before you begin any proceedings.

For more information and immigration tips, read my blog

Send your questions to Include detailed information about your situation to better answer your questions.

Nelson A. Castillo, Esq. is an immigration attorney and author of La Tarjeta Verde: Cómo Obtener la Residencia Permanente en los Estados Unidos (Green Card: How to Obtain Permanent Residence in the United States). He is a past President of the Hispanic National Bar Association and current President of the Los Angeles Westlake South Neighborhood Council. To contact Mr. Castillo's office, please call (213) 537-VISA (8472).