The Workforce Series (2): Hiring Refugees & Asylees

workforce blog seriesAs part of the Greater Mankato Growth Talent Initiative, GMG is publishing a guest blog series highlighting the programs, tools and resources that are available in our marketplace. This series can serve as a catalog or library for businesses to address workforce issues. 

Refugees & Asylees Have The Right To Work

Written by: Margo Druschel: Associate Director, Minnesota Council of Churches

Refugees and Asylees Have the Right to Work…but it can be complicated for employers and individuals to understand the documents that the government provides and uses for the I-9.

The Refugee Employment Services staff of the Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services Office would like to offer some answers to FAQs and to offer ourselves as resources.  We recently attended a workshop offered by the US Department of Justice Immigrant and Employee Rights Section of the Office for Civil Rights, where many questions were answered.

Here’s some of what we learned:

  • Refugees and Asylees have the right to work from the day they land in the US.
  • It is their immigration status that gives authorization to work indefinitely.
  • They are qualified to receive Social Security cards without employment restrictions.
  • They are on a path to Citizenship, which starts with receiving the I-94 form at their arrival and automatically receiving the EAD Card, which expires after 2 years. At the end of 1 year, they are able to apply for Permanent Residency/Green Card, for which they are automatically eligible–WITHOUT NEEDING EMPLOYER SPONSORSHIP.  After being here for 5 years, they are eligible to apply for Citizenship.

What does this mean for an employer and a refugee employee when someone is hired and needs to complete the I-9?

  • Remember, employers CANNOT specify which document(s) an employee submits to establish identity and employment authorization. A refugee who has an MN license or other MN picture ID (LIST B) and an unrestricted Social Security Card (LIST C), could present those and not have to verify again in the future.
  • Often, refugees will use an EAD/Employment Authorization Document, a picture ID that lists their Alien number and is appropriate as a LIST A document, establishing both identity and employment authorization.
  • IF a refugee uses an EAD under LIST A, the EAD establishes BOTH identify and employment authorization. When the EAD expires, employees can present any valid LIST A or LIST C document for reverification (an employer should not request a List B document for reverification, even if the employee showed one at hire).  For example, an alien authorized to work (AAW) who presented an EAD under LIST A, may present an unrestricted Social Security card for reverification.

Call us at MCC:

Abdulkadir Mohamed, Refugee Employment Specialist
507-550-1712 | [email protected]

Margo W. Druschel, Associate Director
507-550-1704 | [email protected]

Additional Resources

The US Department of Justice, Immigrant and Employee Rights Section of the Office for Civil Rights is genuinely helpful to BOTH employers and employees and they want you to call them:   Worker hotline: 800-255-7688 Employer hotline: 800-255-8155