Court Approves Settlement Agreement Regarding Asylum Clock

On November 4, 2013, the District Court in the Western District of Washington approved a settlement agreement between plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit and the government regarding implementation of the “asylum clock.” The asylum clock refers to the method by which government immigration agencies calculate the 180-day waiting period during which an asylum applicant cannot apply for work authorization. The settlement is due to be implemented on December 3, 2013. The class action litigation challenged specific government procedures for administering the asylum EAD clock in proceedings.

As a result of the litigation and proposed settlement, the following reforms will be instituted: an individual will now be permitted to file an application for asylum at the immigration court window in order to start the clock, instead of waiting to file the asylum application in open court; more time will be allowed to prepare an expedited asylum case (a case referred to the immigration court from the asylum office) without stopping the clock; and the clock will be restarted following a successful appeal and remand from the Board of Immigration Appeals to the Immigration Judge.

Further reforms include providing notice to the applicant of the right to reschedule a missed asylum interview and providing additional time to show good cause for having missed the interview; providing written notice of the status of the clock in removal proceedings; and the creation of a process for challenging improperly denied employment authorization applications.

These reforms will offer tangible benefits to asylum applicants beginning on December 3, 2013.