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In latest crackdown, new policy makes it easier to deny work permits to immigrants


Immigrants who have been temporarily allowed into the United States (known as parolees) will face a higher level of scrutiny when they apply for work permits.

While it was never an automatic perk, many foreign nationals benefited from this program while awaiting lawful permanent resident status.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy alert on Monday stating that the agency is enhancing its adjudicators’ discretion to grant or deny work permits to foreign nationals paroled in the U.S.

Entering and staying temporarily in the country for humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit does not establish automatic eligibility for employment authorization, the agency stressed.

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USCIS said the new guidance in its Policy Manual emphasizes the “use of discretion” to decide whether to approve a work permit for parolees.

The policy update also describes the factors that immigration benefits adjudicators “may consider when balancing the totality of the circumstances and determining whether an applicant warrants a favorable exercise of discretion.”

“USCIS will only consider employment authorization for parolees when, based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case, USCIS finds that a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted,” the Department of Homeland Security explained in a press release.

Read more: These policy changes will impact legal immigrants in the U.S. in 2019

Parole, as most immigrants call it, is a special type of admission to the United States — not a visa. Administered by USCIS, the discretionary program allows its beneficiaries to stay legally in the United States while they wait for their immigrant visas.

The move comes two and a half weeks after USCIS announced its intention to end two categorical parole programs: the Haitian Family Reunification Parole and the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole. These programs expedited entry into the U.S. for Haitians and Filipinos eligible for permanent residence or green cards.

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All remaining categorical parole programs, including the Cuban Family Reunification Parole, remain under review, a USCIS official told el Nuevo Herald.

In a statement announcing the latest change, USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said, “Directly addressing loopholes that encourage the exploitation of our immigration system is the only way forward.”

He added that this decision was made “in response to the national emergency at the southern border,” and based on a “review of USCIS adjudicatory practices over the past few years.”

Read more: Here’s a fast and easy way for foreign visitors to extend their stay in the U.S.

Who is eligible for an Employment Authorization card?

According to USCIS, having an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is one way immigrants can prove to prospective employers that they are allowed to work legally for a time period.

Some of the eligibility categories are:


Paroled as a Refugee



Granted Withholding of Deportation or Removal

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Student Seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Student Offered Off-Campus Employment

Several employment-based non-immigrant categories

Spouse of an H-1B non-immigrant and other non-immigrant work visa holders

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How to apply for a work permit in the U.S.

To request an EAD, foreign nationals must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Applicants have to complete all sections on the form, including reasons for applying and personal information.

Send with the application the correct filing fee: $410 for the EAD, in addition to $85 for biometric services, for a total of $495.

Include supporting documentation for initial evidence (it varies depending on the eligibility category). All documents have to be translated into English and certified.

For more instructions on how to apply for Employment Authorization, visit this USCIS resource.

Read more: It’s not so hard for an immigrant to become a U.S. citizen. Here’s what you have to do

Daniel Shoer Roth is a journalist covering immigration law who does not offer legal advice or individual assistance to applicants. Follow him on Twitter @DanielShoerRoth. The contents of this story do not constitute legal advice.

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