UPDATE: On September 29, 2020, a US District Court Judge issued an order stopping the new fee increases from going into effect.
There have been so many changes to the asylum process recently that it has created confusion regarding the current fees as well as the fee changes starting October 2, 2020.
The current filing fee for a work permit based on asylum is $85 if it is being filed the first time and $495 if it is a renewal application. USCIS finalized regulations imposing a biometrics fee on August 25, 2020. That fee is currently $85.
The August 25th rule can be read here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/06/26/2020-13544/asylum-application-interview-and-employment-authorization-for-applicants
Asylum Work Permit Fees After October 2, 2020
On October 2, 2020, USCIS will finalize regulations which make broad changes to fees for all application types. For asylum seekers, this rule is going to make things much more expensive. USCIS is not only charging asylum seekers the full price for the first work permit application, but also imposing a separate biometrics fee of $30. As a result, the new I-765 fee for asylum work permits will be $580 for each applicant (the new I-765 filing fee is $550 and the biometrics fee is $30).
Why is USCIS imposing a fee for asylum seekers filing initial work permit applications? USCIS provided the reason in the final rule:
DHS acknowledges the concerns of the commenters related to the requirement of a fee ($550) for initial filings of Form I-765 for applicants with pending asylum applications. Initial EAD applicants with pending asylum applications account for a large volume, approximately 13 percent, of the Form I-765 workload forecast and DHS has decided to no longer provide this service for free. Charging initial Form I-765 applicants with pending asylum applications allows DHS to keep the fee for all fee-paying EAD applicants lower. Asylum applicants will pay no more and no less than any other EAD applicant (except for those who are eligible for a fee waiver) for the same service.https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/08/03/2020-16389/us-citizenship-and-immigration-services-fee-schedule-and-changes-to-certain-other-immigration
Sadly, this new rule is going to make work permits prohibitively expensive for many families. Previously, the work permit application process was the first opportunity for asylum seekers to get a valid US identification, which is key not only to working but also for getting a license and social security card. Most likely families will stop filing for their minor children who would not be working, leaving them without a US government ID. The combination of the increased waiting period and the increased fees will be extremely hard on lower income applicants, forcing them deeper into poverty and black markets that will expose them to exploitation.