The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) recently mailed a memorandum to their regional directors clarifying the employment authorization status of asylees and refugees in the United States. According to the BCIS, there has been some confusion regarding employment authorization status for these cases. While employment authorization regulations seem to state that asylees and refugees must apply for employment authorization (EAD, Forms I-766 or I-688B) prior to being eligible to work in the U.S., the law states otherwise. Asylees and refugees do not need an EAD to be eligible to work in the U.S.; aliens who have been granted asylum or refugee status are authorized to work in the U.S. upon receipt of that status.
According to William Yates, Acting Associate Director, Operations, BCIS, “Once an individual receives asylee [or refugee] status, by regulation, that asylee is authorized to work as of the date of the grant. This is true regardless of whether the Service has issued the asylee an EAD.”
There are, however, certain instances, where asylees and refugees may wish to seek an EAD from the BCIS, according to Yates. These include “to satisfy the identity and employment authorization documentation requirements of the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification form, the registration requirements of INA 264(e), or the requirements of a state benefits or licensing agency.” It is important to note, however, that failure to obtain an EAD from the BCIS in no way affects employment authorization for asylees or refugees.