Mayor Adams Launches Accelerated Effort To Identify Eligible Asylum Seekers For Work Permits

September 13, 2023

New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced a three-week sprint to identify asylum seekers in the city’s care who are currently eligible to apply for work authorization.

Using staff at emergency sites, last week, the city began conducting in-depth, in-person surveys with the nearly 40,000 asylum seekers over the age of 18 years old in the city’s care to identify individuals who are eligible to apply for work authorization. As of Tuesday, September 12, the city had assessed over 10,000 adult asylum seekers in its care to see if they are eligible to work legally in the United States and will continue this effort over the coming weeks.

“For months, New York City has spoken with one voice, urging the federal government to put asylum seekers on the path to independence and ‘Let Them Work,’” said Mayor Adams. “As Washington continues to leave New York City and other cities across the nation to manage this national humanitarian crisis largely on its own, we continue to fill the leadership void left by our federal partners by providing migrants with a place to stay and a range of services, utilizing a unique model to help thousands of arrivals apply for asylum. But our message remains loud and clear: New York City needs significant and timely support from our state and federal partners to tackle this national issue.”

In some instances, migrants who are admitted into the country by federal authorities are given parole, which is a form of temporary permission to enter and remain in the United States. Parole may be granted for relatively short periods, sometimes just a few months, or longer periods, up to two years or more. While an immigrant is on active parole, they can apply for work authorization immediately and, if granted, they can work legally during that period. For example, if someone is given eight weeks of parole upon entering the country, they can apply for work authorization on day one of entering. If work authorization is granted during their seventh week of parole, they would then be able to work just for their final (eighth) week. To continue to work legally, they would need to apply for asylum and then wait for the federally mandated 150-day waiting period to apply for new work authorization.


The city continues to urge the federal government to address the issuance and extension of parole periods so migrants can get to work right away. Federal immigration authorities have the authority to grant parole more consistently and for longer periods of time at the border, and to extend expired or soon-to-be-expiring parole grants, which would allow migrants to apply for work authorization and obtain work legally immediately rather than waiting for many months. The city also continues to call on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to designate or re-designate Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from 11 countries.

Without these sorely needed changes to facilitate immigrants to gain work authorization and become self-sufficient, the city expects the number of people currently eligible to apply for work authorization to be a relatively small percentage of those now in care. By conducting a comprehensive survey, the city will be able to support those currently eligible for work authorization and help as many migrants as possible who have yet to apply for asylum to submit their asylum applications at the city-run Asylum Application Help Center.

“A key component of our strategy to help people seeking asylum is to support them in completing the complex paperwork as part of the federal government’s process,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “In just a few short months, the Asylum Seeker Application Help Center has helped thousands of people complete their paperwork. It is an example of what we can do when we all come together and it is the type of collaboration we need more of from our state and federal partners.”


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Since opening the Asylum Application Help Center in June 2023, the city has helped asylum seekers mail nearly 3,800 asylum applications with the help of New York City law firms that have volunteered to boost this effort. This week, students from a consortium of the city’s cornerstone higher education institutions also began working at the center as it continues to scale.

The Asylum Application Help Center helps asylum seekers complete and file asylum applications. Interested asylum seekers are scheduled for one-on-one appointments at the Help Center, where trained application assistants provide individualized support to the applicant. Experienced immigration lawyers are on site to supervise application assistants and provide guidance, and interpreters are on site to provide in-person language assistance. The city continues to seek experienced immigration attorneys to apply to serve as per diem supervising attorneys at the Asylum Application Help Center. Interested attorneys can review the qualifications and apply online.

Helping asylum seekers to file asylum applications helps deliver on another commitment in Mayor Adams’ “The Road Forward: A Blueprint to Address New York City’s Response to the Asylum Seeker Crisis,” released earlier this year. The Adams administration also continues to strongly urge the federal government to immediately use every tool at its disposal to support newly arrived migrants — and the municipalities supporting them — by issuing parole extensions, expanding Temporary Protected Status, and expediting processing of applications.

Since this humanitarian crisis began, New York City has taken fast and urgent action — opening 208 emergency sites, including 16 other large-scale humanitarian relief centers already, with two more humanitarian relief centers set to open in the coming weeks. The city has also stood up navigation centers to connect asylum seekers with critical resources, enrolled thousands of children in public schools through Project Open Arms, and more.

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