Asylum may be granted to people who are already in the United States and are unable or unwilling to return their home country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. If you are granted asylum, you will be allowed to live and work in the United States. You also will be able to apply for permanent resident status one year after you are granted asylum. Asylum status and refugee status are closely related. They differ only in the place where a person asks for the status asylum is asked for in the United States; refugee status is asked for outside of the United States. However, all people who are granted asylum must meet the definition of a refugee.
How many people can get asylum in the U.S. a year?
No limits are set on the number of individuals who may be granted asylum in the United States. Approved asylees must reside in the United States for 1 year following their approval in order to be eligible to apply for adjustment to lawful permanent resident status.
To be eligible for asylum in the United States, you must ask for asylum at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport or border crossing), or file an application within one year of your arrival in the United States. You may ask later than one year if conditions in your country have changed or if your personal circumstances have changed within the past year prior to your asking for asylum, and those changes of circumstances affected your eligibility for asylum. You may also be excused from the one-year deadline if extraordinary circumstances prevented you from filing within the one-year period after your arrival, so long as you apply within a reasonable time given those circumstances. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status, meaning that you may apply even if you are in the U.S. illegally.
Asylum in Front of the Immigration Judge
If you have been placed in removal (deportation) proceedings in Immigration Court, an Immigration Judge will hear and decide your case. Immigration Judges also decide on removal if an applicant is found ineligible for asylum and is in the U.S. illegally.
If you have not been placed in removal proceedings, an Asylum Officer will interview you and decide whether you are eligible for asylum. Asylum Officers will grant asylum, deny asylum, and refer the case to an Immigration Judge for a final decision. If you are invalid immigrant or nonimmigrant status and the Asylum Officer finds that you are not eligible for asylum, the Asylum Officer will send you a notice explaining that the USCIS intends to deny your request for asylum. You will be given an opportunity to respond to that notice before a decision is made on your application. If the Asylum Officer does not find the claim to be grantable at the interview, the applicant is referred immediately for deportation proceedings before the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) (unless a nonimmigrant status is still valid). An applicant who fails without good cause to keep a scheduled appointment for an asylum interview is referred immediately to EOIR for removal proceedings.
Fee and Work Authorization
There is no fee for an asylum application. Applicants can apply for work authorization (work permit) 365 days after the USCIS receives a complete application.
Bringing your family to the U.S.
If you are granted asylum you may petition to bring your spouse and children to the United States. To include your child on your application, the child must be under 21 and unmarried. 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.