Every year, people come to the United States seeking protection because they have been threatened in one way or another in their home country. This can be due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership to a particular group. If this sounds like what you or someone you care about is experiencing, you or they may be eligible for asylum or refugee status, and allowed to stay in the US.
How do I seek asylum?
Sometimes people get confused about the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee. An asylum seeker is someone who is looking for protection but whose claim for refugee status has not been determined.
If you are eligible for asylum, you may be permitted to stay in the US.
To apply for asylum, follow these steps:
- File Form I-589. This needs to be done within one year of your arrival to the US. (Note: There is no fee to file Form I-589.)
- Include any spouse or children on your application. Children must be under 21 years old and not married.
- Ask for permission to work 150 days after you filed your application. You cannot apply for permission to work in the US at the same time you apply for asylum. You may also apply if no decision has been made about your application.
- If you are granted asylum, you can start working right away.
- To apply for employment authorization, you must file Form I-765
How do I Get Refugee Status?
A refugee is someone who is located outside of the US and is not yet settled in another country. Someone who is considered a refugee is of special humanitarian concern to the US, that is why there are steps in place to help.
You must receive a referral to the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee. The best way to request a referral is to contact your local United Nations Commissioner for Refugees office (UNHCR).
Once you receive a referral:
- Someone will help you fill out your application. There is no fee.
- You will be interviewed by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) worker.
- The information you provide will be kept private and not shared with your home country.
- You may include your spouse and children on your application. Children must be under 21 years old and not married.
Once you are approved:
- You will receive a medical exam.
- You will go through a cultural orientation.
- Someone will help you make travel plans, and you will get a loan for your trip to the US.
- After you arrive in the US, someone will help you get medical care and money.
- As a refugee, you may work right away.
How Do I Apply for a Green Card?
If you are granted asylum or if you have been admitted to the US as a refugee, you must apply for a green card. This must be done one year after coming to the US. To apply for permanent residency, file Form I-485. There is no fee for refugees to file this form.