- What is the difference between U.S. refugee status and asylum?
Both “asylum and “U. S. refugee status” refer to a form of refugee protection that is based on establishing a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Persons who seek U.S. refugee status must apply for admission to the U.S. Refugee Program while overseas. Asylum is a status that one applies for either upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry or after entry into the U.S., but one must file within one year of arrival.
- Is there a USCIS form used to apply for asylum?
The USCIS Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, is used to apply for asylum. The applicant’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 who are present in the U.S. will be included in the application and will be granted asylum if the principal applicant is approved. There is no processing fee for this application.
- Should I just complete the Form I-589 and send it in?
The asylum process is very complex. We strongly recommend that the applicant seek out qualified assistance from an attorney or an agency such as HIAS, which is authorized by the Board of Immigration Appeals to provide legal representation in immigration matters. If you are confident that you can prepare your application and navigate the process on your own, you should follow the instructions on the USCIS Web site.
- I sent my I-589 form in, now what happens?
USCIS will schedule you for an appointment, fingerprinting, and an interview. If you included any family members on the application, they must attend the interview as well. If your English language skills are not sufficient to be interviewed in English, you must bring a competent interpreter with you.
- How soon after the interview will the officer make a decision?
At a time specified by the officer, usually within approximately 10 days following the interview at the USCIS’s Asylum Unit, the applicant and all family members over the age of 14 included on the application must go back to the Asylum Unit to get the decision.
- The decision letter that I got at the Asylum Unit says that my application has been “recommended for approval.” What does that mean?
Most probably, it means that your application will be approved once all security and criminal background checks have been completed. The decision letter should explain in detail why the final decision hasn’t been made.
- What if my application is not granted?
If the asylum officer doesn’t grant asylum, (s)he may refer the case to the Immigration Court. The applicant will receive a Notice to Appear (NTA) in court, which begins the removal proceedings. For applicants whose non-immigrant status is still valid (e.g. their visitor’s or student visa hasn’t yet expired, or who arrived as crewmembers or stowaways), procedures are different.
- Am I authorized to work while I am waiting for a decision?
Asylum applicants may apply for employment authorization only if their application has not been decided by USCIS or an Immigration Judge within 150 days after it was filed. USCIS and the Immigration Court share a computerized system called the “clock” which tracks this 150 day period. Any delay caused by the applicant, for example, rescheduling an interview, will stop the clock. After the clock reaches 150 days, the applicant may submit an application for employment authorization on Form I-765. USCIS has 30 days to approve or deny the I-765. However, if the asylum application is denied during this 30-day period, no employment authorization will be granted.
- Do asylees get any help starting a new life in the U.S.?
Asylees and refugees are eligible for resettlement assistance and services funded by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Currently, an asylee can receive up to eight months of cash and medical assistance from the date they are granted asylum. Asylees can also contact the National Asylee Information and Referral Line, sponsored by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) at 1-800-354-0365.
- Can asylees bring their relatives to the U.S.?
Spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of an asylee are eligible for derivative asylee status, regardless of whether they are located in another country or are physically present in the U.S.. The asylee must submit Form I-730 within two years of the date when asylum was granted
- Does the asylee status expire?
No. Asylum is granted indefinitely. Unlike refugees, asylees are not required to apply for permanent residence status a year after being granted asylum, but they are eligible to do so and it may be in their best interest.
- Can I become an America citizen if I am an asylee?
Yes, but first you need to apply for and be granted permanent residence (also known as a “green card,” see Permanent Residence/Green Card for more information). After receiving a green card, the asylee can apply for naturalization when (s)he becomes eligible, which is five years after the date of permanent residence on the green card. (See Naturalization for more information).