What is Asylum?

Asylum status is similar to refugee status. However, while immigrants can obtain refugee status while outside the U.S., they may only petition for asylum while within the country.

Last updated on May 16th, 2019

Asylum is a protected status available to immigrants who have suffered persecution or fear of persecution because of their:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Political Opinion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group

Asylum status is similar to refugee status, but refugee status can only be obtained from outside the United States whereas Asylum is available only to immigrants within the United States.

An immigrant may apply for asylum even when they are in removal proceedings.

Application Process

To apply for asylum, the immigrant must complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, within one year of their arrival in the United States.

After submitting Form I-589 to the appropriate USCIS office, the applicant should be interviewed by a USCIS officer within 45 days. Within 180 days of the date of filing, the applicant will be notified if they are granted asylum or not unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Aspects of the Asylum Application

The asylum application is unique for a number of reasons:

First, the applicant can include immediate family members (spouse and unmarried children under age 21).

Another unique aspect of asylum application process is that the applicant cannot simultaneously apply for work authorization. Instead, an applicant must first wait 150 days. If a decision has not been made on an asylum application within 150 days, applicants may then apply for work authorization.

There is also no fee associated with the asylum application or minimum age – even minors may apply for asylum.

Since applicants are fleeing persecution in their home country, USCIS ensures that all information given on the application is protected, even if they are not ultimately granted asylum.

If Asylum Status is Granted

If granted asylum, the immigrant is eligible to apply for permanent residency (green card) one year after asylum status is granted. An immigrant is not automatically a permanent resident upon receiving asylum.

Asylee status can be terminated if there is a fundamental change in your circumstances or if you have engaged in certain criminal activities that would have made you ineligible to apply for asylum in the first place.

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