Section 8 U.S.C. 1157 of the U.S. Code grants employment authorization for eligible individuals awarded refugee status, stating in part that these individuals " ... shall be eligible for resettlement assistance, entitlement programs and other benefits available to refugees admitted under section 207 of Immigration and Nationality Act." These refugees granted employment authorization (i.e., are employment-eligible "incident to status") will still need to apply for the employment authorization document (EAD) but will not be charged a fee for the initial application. Under this section, refugees are granted work authorization for the first 90 days upon presenting acceptable I-9 documentation of their choice.

Parolees—non-citizens granted permission to enter or remain temporarily in the United States—are not provided the same classification as refugees and thus, not awarded the same treatment. Generally, they are not employment-authorized incident to their "parolee" status. Congress recently carved out an exception, however, passing laws implementing the statutory language, "other benefits available to refugees" to certain Afghan (Section 2502(b) of P.L. No. 117-43) and Ukrainian (Section 401 of P.L. 117-128) parolees, thus awarding them the same treatment as refugees.

Eligible parolees and their qualifying family members from Afghanistan and Ukraine are considered employment authorized incident to their "parole" status effective November 21, 2022. Thus, although still required to apply for employment authorization with USCIS (fee-exempt), they do not need to wait for USCIS to approve the application to start working in the United States after presenting acceptable I-9 documentation of their choice. Classes of Afghan and Ukrainian parolees to whom this provision applies are:

  1. Afghan parolees with unexpired Form I-94 under class of admission "OAR";
  2. Ukrainian parolees with unexpired Form I-94 under class of admission for "UHP," and also those with unexpired Form I-94 with class of admission "DT," which are issued between February 24, 2022 and September 30, 2023 and designates Ukraine as country of citizenship.

The unexpired I-94 is an acceptable receipt and can serve as an EAD for I-9 employment purposes (along with acceptable I-9 identification document) for the first 90 days from the date of hire, after which the parolee must submit I-9 acceptable documentation of their choice to continue employment. Of course, it is the election of the employee/candidate as to what documentation they would want to present to meet I-9 requirements.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.