Chronology of Obtaining Asylum Status
Asylum is granted to aliens (other than certain excluded categories of aliens) who are in the United States and are unable or unwilling to return to their homeland because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a certain social group, or political opinion. Asylum status allows a person to live and work in the United States and to apply for permanent resident status a year after asylum is granted. Asylum status and refugee status are similar, except that refugee status is requested from outside of the United States.
- To be granted asylum status, the applicant must apply for asylum on INS form I-589. Application must be made within one year of arriving in the United States. Exceptions may be made allowing later application if conditions in the applicant's home country or his or her personal circumstances have changed, affecting eligibility for asylum, or if extraordinary circumstances prevented the person from applying within the regular one-year period.
All asylum seekers must meet the definition of “refugee” under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which includes persons outside of their country (and some persons who are still in their home country) who are unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Even persons who are in the country illegally may apply for asylum.
- After the application, an Asylum Officer or, in some cases, an Immigration Judge, who will decide whether asylum status may be granted, will interview the applicant. If the applicant is not eligible for asylum and is in the United States illegally, he or she may be placed in removal proceedings, which could lead to deportation.
Asylum applicants can track the progress of their applications by contacting the office to which they applied. While the application is pending, applicants must obtain advance permission before leaving the United States. If they do not, the application is deemed abandoned and they may not be allowed back into the United States. Applicants must generally wait 150 days after applying for asylum to apply to the INS for employment authorization, unless asylum is granted before the expiration of the 150 day period.
- If the asylum officer concludes that the applicant's claim cannot be approved, and the alien appears to be excludable or deportable, the asylum officer will refer the case to an immigration judge to adjudicate as part of expulsion proceedings. Applicants may file an administrative appeal of the immigration judge's denial of asylum with the Board of Immigration Appeals within a specified time period.
Immigration matters are complicated and fraught with emotional implications. When something as important as asylum status is at stake, expert legal counsel is the best defense against an adverse decision.