Political Asylum

An asylee is a person that has already made it to the U.S. border or the interior (by lawful or unlawful entry) and is seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. If s/heare eligible for asylum s/hemay be permitted to remain in the United States. To apply for asylum, an individual should file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, within one year of his or her arrival in the United States, or within one year of a change in circumstances that now justifies a fear of persecution on one of the five statuory grounds enunciated above. There is no fee to apply for asylum, and an applicant may include his or her spouse and children who are in the United States on his or her application at the time s/he files, or at any time until a final decision is made on the application. To include one’s child on an application, the child must be under 21 and unmarried.

Employment Authorizition:

An asylum applicant may apply for permission to work 365 calendar days after filing a complete asylum application. He or she may be eligible to receive employment authorization based on a pending asylum application if:

  • She/He entered the United States lawfully on or after Aug. 25, 2020 (under limited exceptions, s/he may still be eligible if s/he entered the United States unlawfully on or after Aug. 25, 2020);
  • For asylum applications filed on or after Aug. 25, 2020, s/he filed his/her asylum application within one year from the date of his/her last arrival into the United States (alternatively, an asylum officer or immigration judge determined that s/hequalify for an exception to the one-year filing deadline, or s/he is an unaccompanied noncitizen child on the date the asylum application was first filed);
  • She/He appeared for any scheduled biometric services appointments related to his/her application for asylum or employment authorization;
  • She/He appeared for his/her interview with a USCIS asylum officer, or his/her hearing before an immigration judge, if requested or scheduled;
  • She/He is not described in 8 CFR 208.7(a)(1)(iii);
  • She/He does not have an outstanding applicant-caused delay related to his/her asylum application when s/he files his/her initial application for employment authorization; and
  • No final decision has been made on his/her asylum application (note that a referral to an immigration judge after an interview with USCIS is not a final decision).

If, on the date his/her initial application for an employment authorization document (EAD) is filed, there is an unresolved delay in his/her asylum adjudication that s/hecaused, immigration may deny his/her EAD request. Examples of these applicant-caused delays include, but are not limited to:

  • Requesting to amend or supplement an asylum application and causing a delay in its adjudication or in proceedings;
  • Failure to appear to receive and acknowledge receipt of the decision;
  • Requesting to provide additional evidence for an interview, or requesting an extension to submit additional evidence less than 14 days before the interview date, and causing a delay in the asylum application adjudication;
  • Failure to appear for an asylum interview, unless USCIS excuses you;
  • Failure to appear for scheduled biometrics collection for the asylum application, unless USCIS excuses it;
  • Requesting to reschedule an interview for a later date;
  • Requesting to transfer a case to a new asylum office or interview location, including when the transfer is for a new address;
  • Failure to use a USCIS contract interpreter or provide a competent interpreter at an interview; orailure to comply with any other request needed to determine asylum eligibility.
  • Certain criminal offenses or convictions will make s/heineligible for an EAD. s/hewill be ineligible for an EAD based on his/her pending asylum application if:

    • She/He has been convicted, at any time, of any aggravated felony, as defined under 8 CFR 1101(a)(43), in the U.S. or abroad;
    • She/He has been convicted, on or after Aug. 25, 2020, of a particularly serious crime; or
    • There are serious reasons to believe that s/he committed a serious non-political crime outside the U.S. on or after Aug. 25, 2020.

    If USCIS approves his/her application for employment authorization based on his/her pending asylum application, his/her EAD will be valid for up to two years.

    After the Asylum Application is Adjudicated:

    If She/He is granted asylum, s/he is immediately authorized to work. (Some asylees choose to obtain EADs for convenience or identification purposes, but an EAD is not necessary to work if She/He is an asylee.)

    If She/He is denied asylum, his/her EAD will automatically be terminated based on his/her pending asylum application, as follows:

    • For in-status applicants, on the date an asylum officer denies his/her asylum application;
    • 30 days after an immigration judge denies his/her asylum application, unless s/he files a timely appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals; or
    • On the date the Board of Immigration Appeals affirms or upholds a denial.

    Once Granted Asylee Status:

    Once granted asylum, an asylee will receive permission to work indifinately. An asylee may apply for a Green Card one year after having been granted asylum. To apply for a Green Card, the asylee should file one Form I-485 Application To Register Permanent Residence or To Adjust Status for yourself and, if applicable, one for each family member who received derivative asylum based on your case. Once granted asylum an asylee may petition to bring his/her spouse and unmarrried children under the age of twenty-one years to the United States by filing a Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. You must file the petition within two years of being granted asylum unless there are humanitarian reasons to excuse this deadline. There is no fee to file this petition. USCIS will consider the date of the asylum grant as the date of adjustment of status for naturalization purposes.

    Public Benefits:

    Asylees are entitled to certain public benefits. For the first seven years after being granted asylum, asylees are eligible for Social Security Income, Medicaid, and Food Stamps, and a variety of other benefits and services. Eligibility for many of these programs may extend past the first seven years. However, most of these programs themselves are time-limited, and individuals may only be able to receive benefits for periods of three months to a year, depending on the programs. Other programs may be available continuously.

    Some benefits programs administered through the Office for Refugee Resettlement provide benefits available only to asylees, refugees, and victims of human trafficking. Such programs include refugee cash and medical assistance, and should be accessed through a licensed refugee resettlement agency. Other clients should contact the CLINIC Asylee Hotline at 1-800-354-0365 to be placed with a refugee resettlement agency. In addition to administering benefits programs and providing general public benefits counseling, these agencies often provide English classes, employment training and placement programs, mental health programs, youth and elderly services, and referrals to other social service agencies as necessary

    Unlike most other foreign nationals who may apply for legal permanent residence, asylees are not required to prove that they are not likely to become a public charge. Thus, they can receive government financial benefits without jeopardizing their future ability to obtain permanent residence in the United States.


    Asylees are required to report all income earned in the United States to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to pay taxes on that income.

    Selective Service Registration:

    All males in the United States between 18 and 26 years of age are required to register for the draft, and Asylees and asylum seekers are not exempt. Failure to register may have implicationswhen s/he applies to become a U.S. citizen. Information about the Selective Service can be found at www.sss.gov.

    Internatopnal Travel:

    Asylees can travel outside the United States with refugee travel documents. It is essential that the asylee not return to her home country until she has become a U.S. citizen and can travel with a U.S. passport. If the asylee does return to her home country, DHS could refuse to allow his/her to reenter the United States on the grounds that s/he implicitly no longer fears persecution.

    Asylees must only travel with a United States issued Refugee Travel Document. If an asylee travels with the passport issued by the country from which s/he has been granted asylum, s/he can be seen as availing herself of the protections of her government which could lead to a finding by the U.S. government that s/he no longer needs asylum protection.

    While asylees may have technical grounds of inadmissibility (such as unlawful presence in the U.S. or prior entry with a false passport), these immigration violations do not generally put an asylee at risk if he or she travels abroad. If, however, an asylee has any criminal convictions in the U.S., he or she should consult with an immigration attorney before traveling outside the U.S.

    Asylees should understand, however, that even after obtaining legal permanent residence, they will have to use a Refugee Travel Document to travel abroad. It is only after an asylee becomes a U.S. citizen that he will be eligible for a U.S. passport.

    Individuals who have won withholding of removal or relief under the Convention against Torture, can never travel abroad. Leaving the United States would amount to self-enforcement of a removal order and they would not be permitted to re-enter the United States.

    Reugee StatusSTATUS

    A refugee is a person who is outside the United States and is seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Conversely, an asylee is a person who is in the United States, and who harbors a history and/or fear of persecution on any of the five statutory grounds refered to above. These bases can, and often do, overlap. If you are eligible for refugee status, you may be permitted to enter the United States, eventually apply for a green card, and even have a path to citizenship.

    Eligibility For Refugee Status:

    The USCIS will evaluate whether you meet the definition of a refugee according to section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In general, eligibility for refugee status requires that:

    • You are located outside the United States;
    • The reason for persecution is related to one of five things: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion;
    • You have not already resettled in another country; and
    • You are not inadmissible to the United States

    An indivdual must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee. Once received, he or she will receive help filling out his or her application and then be interviewed abroad by a USCIS officer who will determine whether the applicant is eligible for refugee resettlement. If so, once in the United States, he or she may apply for immediate family members (spouse enad unmarried children under twenty-one years of age) who are still abroad, by filing form Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, within two years of arrival to the United States, unless there are humanitarian reasons to excuse this deadline.

    Working As A Refugee:

    A refugee may work immediately upon arrival in the United States and will be provided with Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) stamped “Employment Authorized”, which will permit authorization until such time as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (permission to work card) is received.

    Traveling Abroad As A Refugee:

    To travel outside the United States for a brief period of time return to refugee status and continue to pursue an application for adjustment of status, one must apply for a Refugee Travel Document before traveling. To apply for a travel document, an person would file a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document.

    Generally, an indivdual should not travel back to the country of past persecution, as this places him or her at high risk of having his or her refugee status revoked. IT is strongly recommended to contact an immigration attorney before traveling abroad with refugee status. Advance parole allows certain individuals to return to the U.S. without a visa; however, advance parole does not guarantee that the refugee will be allowed to reenter the United States.

    Obtaining A Green Card Through Regugee Status:

    One year after receiving refugee status, the refugee becomes eligible to apply for pLawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status, “green card”, as will his spouse or children if they too wre admistted as refugees. To apply for LPR status as a refugee, one must:

    • Have been physically present in the United States for at least one year after having been admitted as a refugee;
    • Not having had his or her refugee admission terminated; and
    • Not having already acquired LPR status.

    Although applying for LPR status is not required, it is ususally recommended to do so because if conditions change in one’s home country, or he or she no longer meets the definition of a refugee due to changed circumstances, he or she may no longer qualify for refugee status with the right to remain permanently in the United States. Moreover, permanent residents have a path to U.S. Citizenship, which refugees do not.

    To apply for a green card, each family member must file a separate Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status. There is no government filing fee to file Form I-485 as a refugee.
    Note: When USCIS grants your green card, you (and derivative family members) will have your adjustment of status date recorded as the day you entered into the United States as a refugee, which will allow earlier eligibility for naturalization.