Definition and Process for Asylum Seeker and Refugee Immigration


With the confusion surrounding immigration policies in the U.S. right now, many immigrants and their support systems are left with a number of questions. This is especially true for asylum seekers and refugee immigrants. Learn what asylum status means in the United States and how to apply for asylum status, citizenship and more.


What Is The Definition of Asylum In The USA?

In the U.S., asylum is defined as a protection for foreign nationals who already reside in the United States or are at the border and are considered a refugee. A refugee is defined as a person who is unwilling or unable to return to their home country due to a legitimate fear of persecution.


Who Qualifies for Asylum In The USA?

According to Federal law, anyone from another country can seek asylum in the United States. The U.S. allows people who have a well-founded fear of persecution to seek asylum or refugee status through a permanent residency (green card). To qualify, the applicant needs to have a well-founded fear of persecution due to:

  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Membership or identification with a particular social group
  • Political opinion

What Is The Application Process For Asylum In The USA?

When seeking asylum in the U.S., there are two ways that most go about it, but either way, the person must be present in the United States to start the process. The first, known as the affirmative process, starts through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) division and can be elevated to immigration court if denied. The second, known as the defensive process, begins when a person is already going through removal proceedings. This will occur with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Keep in mind, the EOIR does not provide counsel, even if a person cannot afford to hire their own.

The law requires that an applicant must apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the U.S. Otherwise, the applicant must show either extraordinary circumstances or a change in circumstances within their home country.


What Are the Steps to Apply for Asylum In The USA?

Once granted Asylee status, a person may apply for permanent residency by submitting Asylee Form I-485. In order for an application to be considered, a person must have been in the U.S. under Asylee status for at least one year.

There are many documents (and fees) required during the application process. In addition to Form I-485, the following documents and forms are also required:

  1. Fingerprint fee (if you are between the ages of 14 and 79)
  2. Form I-485 filing fee
  3. Form G-28 (if applicable), signed by both you and your attorney/representative
  4. 2 photos in an envelope stapled to lower left corner of Form I-485. Please write your name and A-number (if you know it) in light pencil on the back of each photo.
  5. Signed Form G-325, if you are age 14 or older.
  6. Form I-693 Medical with Vaccination Supplement. An USCIS authorized civil surgeon must conduct this medical examination and complete the form.
  7. Evidence of Asylee Status. This may include a copy of your Form I-94 and a legible copy of the letter granting you asylum.
  8. Form IRS-9003, optional.
  9. Form I-602, Application by Refugee for Waiver on Grounds of Excludability, if applicable.
  10. Evidence that you have been in the US for at least one year.
  11. Proof of any absences from the US since you have been granted asylum.
  12. A birth certificate or other birth record.
  13. Proof of any legal name changes made since you were granted asylum status.

What Now?

There is a lot of confusion about the refugee immigration process right now in the United States. Some cases take years to put together while others are fast tracked. Some asylum seekers are detained, while others are not. Asylees and their families are advised to learn what rights they have and to gather as much information and documentation as possible. Those who are seeking asylum in the USA should be aware of their rights and familiarize themselves with things they should and should not do if confronted by an I.C.E. agent.

For those that are seeking asylum, familiarize yourself with the expectations to obtain this status. It may be intimidating to keep up with the ever-changing immigration laws, but you’re not alone. If you fear persecution and wish to seek asylum in the United States, Neelam Bhardwaj can help.

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