Asylum or Refugee Immigration

Every year, thousands of people come to the U.S. in need of protection from persecution in their country on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Those found eligible for asylum are permitted to remain in the U.S. for as long as they “have a well-founded fear of persecution” (USCIS) .

The Refugee Act of 1980, and subsequent modifications of it incorporated into the Immigration and Nationality Act, state that, “Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States … irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum …” (sec. 208 of the INA)

To apply for immigration through this category, you must first get a refugee/ asylum status in the United States.

The whole process generally takes 60 days from the date of filing the application. However, it may take longer if you are currently in valid status, were interviewed at a district office, or your case is being reviewed by the staff at the Asylum Division Headquarters. In these situations, the decision is usually mailed to you.

You may apply for Permanent Resident status in the U.S. under this category one year after you get the status of a refugee or asylee. If you are a refugee, you are required by law to apply for Permanent Resident status. This condition is not applicable if you are an asylee; however, it may be in your best interest to do so.

The basic requirements to apply for a Permanent Resident status for a refugee or an asylee are:

If you are a Refugee:

  • You have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one year after being admitted as a refugee.
  • You are the spouse or child of a refugee.
  • You have not abandoned your refugee status.
  • You have not had your refugee admission terminated.

If you are an Asylee:

  • You have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one year after being granted asylum.
  • You should continue to meet the definition of an asylee.
  • You have not abandoned your status as an asylee.
  • You are not firmly resettled in any foreign country

Procedure to Apply for Asylum or Refugee Immigration

Once you satisfy the basic requirements for applying for Permanent Resident status mentioned above, you must apply for an adjustment of status. Prior to applying for this adjustment of status, though, you should have lived in the U.S. as an asylee/refugee or derivative refugee/asylee for at least one year.

Any foreign language documents must be submitted with a certified English translation. The translator must certify that he/she is competent to perform the translation and that the translation is accurate.

Note : Translations submitted without a legible copy of the foreign document are not sufficient.

While your application to adjust status is pending, you are permitted to travel outside the U.S.; however you must havea valid Refugee Travel Document to re-enter the country.

As an asylee, you are authorized to work in the U.S. incident to your status. If you want a document from USCIS that can serve as evidence of both your work authorization and identity, you have to request this at the service center that serves your location. Please note that it will take roughly three months to process this document.

© Samia Chandraker 2014