Asylum and Refugees
People the world over look to the United States as a safe haven where they can live in peace and prosper. They come to the United States shores seeking sanctuary. Asylum leads to lawful permanent residency (Green Card) and eventually US citizenship. To qualify for asylum, you must be unable or unwilling to return to your country because you have been persecuted in the past or have a well-founded fear of persecution because of your political opinion, religion, race, nationality, or membership in a particular social group. With some exceptions, you must apply for asylum within one year of entering the United States.
Affirmative Asylum with USCIS
Affirmative asylum applications are filed directly with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Asylum is available even if you entered the US illegally or your status has expired. After you file your application you will have an interview with an asylum officer to discuss why you fear returning to your country. This officer can approve you or refer your case to Immigration Court for further review.
Defensive Asylum and Related Relief in Immigration Court
If you’re placed in removal proceeding before an immigration judge, you may request asylum as a form of relief. Applicants can be placed in removal proceedings if:
- USCIS does not approve their asylum application,
- You are in violation of US immigration laws, or
- You request asylum at any US border crossing, including airports.
In removal proceedings, you will be asking the immigration judge to stop your deportation. In addition to asylum, you can also apply for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
Applicants not eligible for asylum, whether because they committed a serious crime or have been firmly resettled in another country, amongst other reasons, continue to be eligible to apply for withholding of removal. An application for asylum is automatically considered to be an application for withholding of removal, a similar but more limited form of relief than asylum. Basically, it prohibits the US government from sending you to a country where your life or freedom would be threatened because of your political opinion, religion, race, nationality, or membership in a particular social group. Unlike asylum, however, a person granted withholding of removal cannot travel abroad or petition for their family, and there is no pathway to permanent residence or citizenship. They can, however, remain in the United States and receive work authorization.
Relief under CAT prohibits the removal of a person to a country where it is more likely than not that he or she would be tortured. Like withholding, CAT relief allows a person to remain in the United States and receive work authorization, but he or she cannot travel abroad or petition for their family, and there is no pathway to permanent residence or citizenship. The advantage of CAT relief, however, is its availability to all individuals regardless of their immigration or criminal history.
Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions: I-730
Fleeing persecution can often mean facing the difficult decision of leaving your family overseas. If you have been approved for asylum or refugee status you have the right to bring your spouse and children to the US through an I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. Form I-730 can be filed for family members overseas or for those living in the US who weren’t included on the original application.