What is Asylum?
One may apply for asylum within one year of entering the U.S. if he or she has faced persecution in his or her home country on the basis of his or her religion, race, nationality, political opinion, or association with a particular social group. In order to do so, he or she must file Form I-485. There are no application fees for asylum. Approval for political asylum and refugee applications can anywhere from several months to a year. By law, asylees and refugees are permitted to work and live in the U.S. for an unrestricted amount of time. Following one year as an asylee or refugee, you may apply for lawful permanent residence (LPR).
Political Asylum versus Refugee Immigration Status
Those eligible for a political asylum are immigrants who are already in the U.S. and have fled from persecution in their native country. This authorizes the immigrant to remain in the U.S. as opposed to returning back to his or her home country and facing potential persecution.
Refugee Immigration Status is for individuals who wish to come to the U.S. due to fear of persecution in their home countries. These individuals can apply for refugee immigration status while still living outside the U.S. If accepted, they may become political refugees.
Refugee status is granted to those who have been victims of and can prove “well-founded fear” of persecution on the grounds of political opinion or membership in a political group. Persecution may involve violation of human rights, being a victim of violence or unlawfully imprisoned on the basis of political beliefs, or being treated inhumanely (i.e. torture, slavery, or degradation). Prior incidents of persecution will often times be adequate to demonstrate a well-founded fear of subsequent persecution. Additionally, homosexuals may be qualified for refugee status due to persecution on the basis of membership to a specific social group. Refugees have their own individual rights such as the right to safe asylum, physical safety, economic and social rights, medical care, schooling, the right to work, as well as freedom of thought, movement, and freedom from torture and degrading treatment.
There is a slight difference between refugee status and asylum status. The distinction is based on where the applicant who is applying for asylum or refugee status is located. Asylum refers to foreigners who have been persecuted in their native country, but are already present within the U.S. On the other hand, refugee status refers to political refugees who are located either outside the U.S. or outside of their native country and have not entered the U.S. yet. These individuals are either not willing or not able return to their home country because of persecution. The distinction is significant because some programs pertain to political refugee immigrants that may not pertain to those seeking asylum.
Your Legal Rights as an Asylum
If you have been granted asylum, you may:
- Immediately work in the U.S., however, you are not permitted to apply for work at the same time you are applying for asylum—150 days must pass since you have filed your asylum application and no decision has been made regarding your application
- File an application to bring in your spouse or children to the U.S. (your child must be under age 21 and unmarried) within two years of being granted asylum
- File for a green card one year after being granted asylum and apply for lawful permanent resident status (LPR)
If you desire to stay in the U.S. but fail to meet the criteria for political asylum or refugee status, you may qualify for the following:
Amnesty: Amnesty may be granted to immigrants whose immigration status has expired, or immigrants who have already been living in the U.S. unlawfully, under the condition that this was the only illegal activity he or she had participated in.
If you or a loved one are seeking asylum or need more information regarding your options and rights, contact a Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Immigration Attorney today. Our trusted member attorneys are here to help you gain the rights you deserve.