If applicants for asylum have not suffered enough legal setbacks within the past year, we have recently heard of work permits for asylum applicants who have had brushes with the law. The instructions for the I-765 Application For Work Authorization indicate that for category (c )8-which applies to asylum applicants--USCIS "may, in its discretion, deny your application if you have been arrested and/or convicted of any crime." In one case, we recently heard of an adverse decision regarding an individual who had a DWI and very minor traffic infraction on his record. Apparently, USCIS is applying a very elastic understanding of "crime" to include not only felonies and misdemeanors but essentially any type of violation or infraction. Moreover, one does not necessarily need to be convicted or found guilty by a judge in order to trigger a denial. A mere arrest can potentially invoke denial under USCIS's boundless discretionary powers, which does not bode well for immigration applicants in general given that asylum work applications are not the only types of applications where some measure of discretion is accorded to adjudicators.
One of the most frustrating aspects of immigration practice is dealing with government delay-something which, more often than not, is a given these days. Family adjustment of status cases used to relatively quick, but we have noticed a significant lag in processing times recently. For all practical purposes, most people will have to patiently endure the wait until their case is adjudicated. Fortunately, the regulations do provide some interim relief in the way of work authorization: many adjustment applicants may apply for an employment authorization document ("EAD") on Form I-765 that will allow them to work legally and apply for social security numbers while their cases are pending. What happens, though, if the work permit application itself is taking an excessively long time to process? One of the most common questions we get is whether there is any way to speed up the process.
One of the most pressing questions that prospective permanent residents here in the US often ask is, "When Can I Start Working?" Within the context of family-based adjustment of status cases--which is what this is discussion is limited to--this topic is rife with misunderstanding. Many people, to their detriment, misunderstand the difference between applying for adjustment of status and being authorized to work.