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.


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:

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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.


 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.

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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.


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.


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.

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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.


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:

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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.


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.

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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:

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