Asylum relief is granted to qualified applicants, regardless of their countries of origin, who are unable or unwilling to return to their country of nationality because of past persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
When asylum applicants are granted asylum relief:
• They are permitted to remain in the United States,
• Asylum relief is also granted to their family members who are in the United States and were included in their asylum application,
• They may also petition to bring their eligible family members to the United States, and
• In time, they may apply for lawful permanent residence and, ultimately, citizenship.
Applying for Asylum
Asylum-seekers must apply for asylum within 1 year from the date of last arrival in the United States. If an applicant seeks asylum more than 1 year after arrival, an applicant must show either changed circumstances that materially affect the applicant’s eligibility or extraordinary circumstances that delayed filing an application. An applicant must also show that the application was filed within a reasonable amount of time given those circumstances.
• Aliens who are not in removal proceedings can apply for asylum with DHS. This is called an “affirmative” asylum claim.
• Aliens who are in removal proceedings can apply for asylum with EOIR. This is called a “defensive” asylum claim.
DHS –– The Affirmative Asylum Process
The affirmative asylum process applies to aliens who initially file an asylum application with DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS asylum officers conduct non-adversarial interviews of asylum applicants and determine whether to grant asylum.
In making a determination, an asylum officer will evaluate the applicant’s testimony, the information they provide on their application, any supplementary materials they submit, and the credibility of their claims. Moreover, an asylum officer will consider country condition information from reliable sources and adjudicate cases in accordance with immigration law.
• If an applicant is in lawful status is in the United States and an asylum officer finds the applicant ineligible for asylum, the asylum officer denies the asylum claim.
Legal Bars to Asylum
Under immigration law, certain aliens are barred from obtaining asylum. They include those who:
• Have firmly resettled in another country prior to coming to the United States;
• Have already applied for and been denied asylum, unless there are changed circumstances that materially affect the alien’s eligibility for asylum;
• Have ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion;
• Were convicted by final judgment of a particularly serious crime (including aggravated felony convictions), and therefore constitute a danger to the community of the United States;
• Are believed to have committed a serious nonpolitical crime outside the United States before arriving in the United States;
• Pose a danger to the security of the United States;
• Are members or representatives of a foreign terrorist organization, unless the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determines that they are not a danger to the security of the United States; or
• Have engaged in or incited terrorist activity.
Difference Between Asylum and Refugee Applicants
Both asylum and refugee determinations are made under the same legal standard that requires persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. However, those seeking refugee status must apply while outside both their country of nationality and the United States. Asylum-seekers must be in the United States or applying for admission at a U.S. port of entry.
Employment Authorization for Asylum Applicants
Asylum applicants are eligible for employment authorization 180 days after they file their asylum application. The 180-day timeframe does not include time spent due to any delays caused by the applicant.
Applicants may apply for employment authorization 150 days after they file their asylum application. USCIS has 30 days to either grant or deny employment authorization.
Asylum applicants who are granted asylum will be authorized to work in the United States as long as they remain in asylee status.