Asylum is a form of protection that allows individuals who are in the United States to stay in the country on condition that they meet the definition of a refugee. Such individuals are eligible for an asylum status and, eventually, to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident if they wish to do so.

Asylum may be granted to a refugee already in the United States who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country fearing persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political view, and membership in a particular social group.

When a person is granted asylum, he or she may be allowed to live and work in the United States legally. One can apply for asylum regardless of immigration status, which entails that the person would still be allowed to apply for asylum even if she or he entered the United States by illegal means in order to escape persecution.

Do I Qualify?

Seeking asylum in the United States requires:

  • Asking for asylum at a port-of-entry
  • Filing an application within one year of arrival in the US
  • Applying for asylum, beyond the one year limit, if conditions in one’s country have changed or if personal circumstances have changed within the past year prior to the application for asylum and those changes have affected his or her eligibility for asylum
  • The existence of extra-ordinary circumstances that prevented the applicant from applying for asylum within the stipulated one year.

Spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 accompanying the applicant and already present in the United States may be given refugee status.

For all other cases, a Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition must be filed separately for each of the family members.

How to Apply?

Eligibility will be determined based on information one provides included in application documents and during an interview with an Asylum Officer or immigration Judge. There are various ways refugee applicants are granted asylum in the United States.

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) refers manyAsylum applicants to the United States Refugee Program (USRP) for resettlement consideration
  • U.S. Embassy or Consulate refer some individuals for asylum
  • Other applicants are eligible to apply for the USRP directly because they are members of nationalities designated as being of special humanitarian concern and are eligible for resettlement processing priorities

Recognized non-governmental processing agencies carry out a significant portion of the preparation of the casework for USCIS interview. These agencies may

  • Interview applicants
  • Help prepare the applications for the USCIS
  • Arrange medical examinations

USCIS officers conduct personal interviews designed to elicit information about the applicant’s claim for refugee status. Applicants who prove their eligibility for refugee status must satisfy medical and security criteria in addition to sponsor assurance.

If the refugee is unable to finance his or her transportation costs, he may be eligible for a travel loan, whereby s/he must agree to repay the cost of the airfare.

What is the Difference Between a Refugee and Asylee?

Both of these statuses are closely related. Their difference lies in the place where a person seeks protection. Such a person is an asylum applicant if he or she applied within the Unites States; whereas if the individual sought protection outside of the United States, the person is categorized as a refugee.

However, all individuals granted asylum must meet the definition of a refugee.

How Do I Qualify for Adjustment of Status to Permanent Resident?

No limits are set on the number of individuals who may be granted asylum in the United States. Those who are granted asylum are required to stay in the United States at least one year before applying for Permanent Resident status.

What are the Key Required Documents?

The application should include:

  1. Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status) along with
  2. Appropriate fees,
  3. Fingerprint fee,
  4. 2 photos, and
  5. Other appropriate documents. It is extremely important to meet the appointment schedule because the applicant may face the risk of immediate deportation if he or she failed to do so.

Can I Travel Outside the United States?

Yes, you can. Asylum applicants who wish to travel outside the United States must, however, receive advance permission before leaving the US. This permission is known as Advance Parole. Without obtaining Advance Parole, such applicants may not be permitted to return to the US.

If the individual is granted an asylum status, however, he or she can apply for a Refugee Travel Document, which allows him or her to travel internationally and re-enter the US.

How Can I Obtain a Work Permit?

An asylum applicant cannot apply for employment authorizations at the same time as their application for asylum. Applicants are required to wait 150 days after the USCIS’s date of reception of a complete application.

The USCIS has 30 days to either grant or deny your request for employment.