Every year foreign nationals are granted asylum in the United States due to war and persecution in their homelands, and this kind of immigration is woven into the fabric of U.S. immigration law.
Still, asylum-based immigration in the U.S. is widely misunderstood. Here are some things that immigrants and their families need to know about asylum and immigration.
1. Every person seeking asylum in the U.S. has the burden of proving that he or she matches the definition of a refugee.
To be granted asylum, asylum seekers must provide substantial evidence that demonstrates either past persecution or a "well-founded fear" of persecution in their homeland. One of the most influential parts of this process is the asylum seeker's own testimony.
Additionally, it is a good idea for asylum seekers to have legal counsel throughout the immigration process. An immigration attorney can help ensure that no mistakes are made and that the application is handled as smoothly as possible.
Keep in mind, too, that there is a deadline for applying for asylum. You have one year from the time you arrived in the U.S. to file your asylum application. Missing the deadline could result in denial of the application.
2. What are the benefits for a person granted asylum?
A person granted asylum -- or an asylee -- may work in the U.S., apply for a Social Security card, petition to bring other family members to the U.S., and request permission to travel to other countries. Asylees may also be eligible for government benefits, such as Refugee Medical Assistance and Medicaid.
An asylee may also apply for a green card -- lawful permanent resident status -- after one year of being granted asylum. After obtaining permanent resident status, an asylee must wait four years before applying for citizenship.
3. Applying for permission to work is separate from applying for asylum.
If you have already applied for asylum but your case has not yet been decided, you may apply for permission to work when 150 days have passed since you applied for asylum.
If you are granted asylum, you can immediately start working.
To learn more about the U.S. immigration process, please see Duncan | Kent's immigration law overview.