The Benefits and Responsibilities of Asylum

October 3, 2014 2:15 pm
by David Jakeman

Immigration lawyers often help clients obtain asylum. If granted, asylum means that the United States government will not remove (deport) an alien to his home country, even if that person came here illegally. Asylum is founded in the idea that America should be a place of refuge for persecuted peoples across the world. Accordingly, a person will qualify for asylum under U.S. law if he is unable to return to his home country based on a well-founded fear of government-sanctioned persecution (or past persecution). The persecution must be on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Asylum can be pursued affirmatively, meaning the applicant applies on his own accord through USCIS, or defensively, meaning the asylum application is used as a defense to removal proceedings before an immigration judge. There are numerous benefits to applying for asylum, as well as some responsibilities.

The Benefits of Asylum

Perhaps the most important benefit associated with asylum is that it provides the recipient legal status to remain in the United States, even if he is otherwise removable from the country. This is why asylum is one of the most popular forms of removal relief. The following are additional benefits of asylum:

Those granted asylum have the ability to bring their family members immediately to the United States. Asylum recipients may petition for their spouses and unmarried children who are under age 21. This petition must be filed within two years of receiving asylee status.

After one year, an asylum recipient may apply for lawful permanent residency (a green card). This is very significant because lawful permanent residence is the precursor to citizenship. Once citizenship is obtained, a person may not be deported. Also, gaining lawful permanent residency through asylum only takes one year whereas other legal routes take much longer. Each family member who received derivative asylee status is also eligible for lawful permanent residency. (It is important to note that applying for lawful permanent residency is not required, but strongly encouraged. Asylee status only lasts as long as the recipient meets the eligibility requirements, including the definition of “refugee.” Thus, if circumstances in the home country change, asylee status may be revoked.)

Asylee status confers the right to work in the United States. The recipient may obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for convenience and identification. However, EAD’s are not necessary to work, though the recipient must file an application for employment authorization. Job search assistance, career counseling, and occupational skills training are available.

Social security cards are immediately available upon receiving asylee status.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement provides funding to local organizations that may be able to provide financial assistance, medical assistance, employment preparation and job placement, and English language training to those with asylee status.

The Responsibilities of Asylum

  • Before traveling abroad, recipients of asylee status must seek permission from immigration authorities by obtaining a refugee travel document.
  • If a recipient of asylee status moves, he must inform immigration authorities of his change in address within ten days.
  • All male recipients of asylee status between the ages of 18 and 26 must register for the Selective Service.
  • This should go without saying but to maintain asylee status, a person must not commit certain crimes or other bad acts that will make him removable under current immigration laws.