When Anton arrived in New York City in May after fleeing his native Russia, he was eligible for a work permit. That was because he had been granted immigration clearance, a form of temporary stay of deportation, when he crossed the U.S. border into Mexico. But he only applied months later, at the urging of a friend at his shelter. He didn’t know that he needed permission and then he didn’t know where to start.
Anton, whose last name is being withheld due to his immigration status, is among tens of thousands of immigrants trapped in New York City’s shelter system because they lack legal permission to work. Federal authorization generally requires immigrants fleeing persecution to first apply for asylum, wait 150 days and then apply for a work permit, which could take 30 days or more. The complexity of the process often makes it necessary for immigrants to work with immigration attorneys who know the criteria for successful petitions.