People who seek asylum in the United States, legally known as asylees, are trying to escape persecution in their home country. As with all other aspects of immigration to the U.S., asylum and refugee claims involve a complicated set of rules, requirements, and procedures. Although hiring an attorney may be the best way to get asylum in the U.S., information in this section includes a list of the steps involved in the asylum/refugee claim process, explanations of the hearings where an applicant's case is reviewed, tips on how to seek resettlement and obtain a green card as a refugee or asylee, and more.
Applying for Refugee Status
Those requesting asylum who are currently outside of the United States must receive a referral through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Those who receive a referral get assistance completing their application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and are interviewed by a USCIS officer who makes a determination about their eligibility. If approved, the applicant receives a medical exam, cultural orientation, and then may travel to the United States.
Applying for Asylum Status
Those requesting asylum at the border or within the United States file an application with USCIS. Then, depending on whether or not they are in removal proceedings at the time of application, have their request heard at an interview with a USCIS Asylum Officer or in court during a hearing with the immigration judge. If the application is granted, the applicant is given documentation of their status as an asylee.
Whether the applicant was admitted as a refugee or became an asylee, they are authorized for employment (even without an Employment Authorization Card). Refugees will receive an employment authorization card after their arrival and asylees may request one, though it is not strictly necessary for either status. Refugees generally do not require work authorization beforehand since they are not present in the country. Asylum seekers, on the other hand, are permitted to apply for interim work authorization if they have been waiting for an interview or decision for more than 150 days and did nothing to cause delay in the case.
Permanent Resident Status
Technically an immigrant's status as a refugee or asylee is indefinite. However, a change in circumstances that results in the elimination of danger to the foreign national could result in the termination of their status.
For example, a family fleeing political persecution for their support of an opposition party would (in many situations) no longer have a reasonable fear of persecution if their party seized control of the government. Permanent Resident Status eliminates the need to continue to show a reasonable fear of persecution. An asylee may request Permanent Resident Status after being physically present in the U.S. for at least a year.