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Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2023: Key Points

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2023 (S. 255) on June 15, 2023, along with Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) and Angus King (I-Maine). This legislation aims to make significant changes to the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) waiting period for asylum seekers in the U.S.

Main Highlights:

1. Faster EAD Waiting Period:

  • The bill intends to reduce the current 180-day EAD waiting period for asylum seekers to just 30 days.
  • This shorter waiting period applies to asylum seekers who entered the U.S. through an official port of entry (POE).

2. Standard Two-Year EAD Renewal:

  • The legislation introduces a consistent two-year renewal schedule for EADs based on asylum claims.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced a similar bill called the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2023 (H.R. 1325) on March 1, 2023, with support from nine co-sponsors. While this House bill also reduces the EAD waiting period to 30 days, it does not mandate that asylum seekers enter the U.S. through official POEs. Furthermore, it proposes extending work permits for asylum seekers until their asylum claims are fully adjudicated, including any appeals.

Impact on the U.S. Asylum System:

The Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2023 aims to address several critical issues:

1. Economic Contribution:

  • The bill enables asylum seekers to enter the workforce sooner, allowing them to contribute their skills to the U.S. economy and support themselves and their families more quickly.
  • It helps alleviate labor shortages faced by local businesses and communities, benefiting both asylum seekers and the economy.

2. Reduced Waiting Period:

  • By reducing the waiting period for work authorization, the bill provides asylum seekers with greater independence and integration into local communities.
  • It lessens the reliance on community support during extended waiting periods.

3. Protection and Dignity:

  • Shortening the waiting period aims to protect asylum seekers from exploitation and hardships associated with unauthorized employment.
  • It promotes self-sufficiency and preserves the dignity of asylum seekers, aligning with U.S. values of fairness and inclusion.

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