Refugees and Asylum
Asylum or status of a refugee may be granted to individuals who have been persecuted or are in threat of persecution on account of their nationality, race, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
To qualify for a refugee status, a person needs to meet a definition of a refugee specified in section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In general, refugee is a person outside of their country who is unwilling or unable to return due to their well-founded fear of persecution on account of the abovementioned grounds.
Refugees are persons located outside of the United States and who are of special humanitarian concern to the United States. To become a refugee, a person needs to be admissible to the United States. Persons who cannot become refugees are those who participated in the persecution of any person on account of nationality, race, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
To be able to become a refugee a person must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee. If a person receives a referral, they will receive help filling out their application and then be interviewed abroad by a USCIS officer who will determine whether they are eligible for a refugee status.
The refugee petition may include a refugee spouse, child (unmarried and under 21 years of age), and in some limited circumstances, other family members.
Refugees may work immediately upon arrival to the United States. If a refugee wants to travel outside of the United States, they need to obtain a Refugee Travel Document in order to be able to return to the United States. One year after coming to the United States, a refugee must apply for a permanent residency (green card).
Asylum may be granted to persons meeting the definition of a refugee who are already present in the United States or who are seeking admission at a U.S. port of entry. Person may apply for permanent residence one year after being granted asylum.
Persons seeking asylum cannot apply for work permit at the same time they apply for asylum. They may apply for employment authorization if 150 days have passed since the filing of the complete asylum application and no decision has been made on such application. The applicants may work immediately if they are granted asylum.
Persons who are granted asylum may petition for their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age. Such petition must be filed within two years of being granted asylum unless there are humanitarian reasons to excuse this deadline.