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What is the United States Asylum Program and Who Benefits?
Asylum may be granted to people who are already in the United States and are unable or unwilling to return their home country
because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular
social group, or political opinion. If you are granted asylum, you will be allowed to live and work in the United States. You also
will be able to apply for permanent resident status one year after you are granted asylum. You may include your spouse and any
unmarried children under the age of 21 in your own asylum application if your spouse or children are in the United States.
Asylum status and refugee status are closely related. They differ only in the place where a person asks for the status asylum is
asked for in the United States; refugee status is asked for outside of the United States. However, all people who are granted asylum
must meet the definition of a refugee. If you do not qualify for asylum, but fear being tortured upon returning to your homeland,
you can apply for consideration under the Torture Convention .
What Does the Law Say?
The legal foundation for this program comes from the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). For the part of the law concerning
Asylum, please see INA § 208 (Asylum). Rules published in the Federal Register explain the eligibility requirements and procedures
to be followed by applicants and the government to ask for and decide on asylum. These rules are incorporated into the Code of
Federal Regulations [CFR] at 8 CFR § 208.
Who is Eligible?
To be eligible for asylum in the United States, you must ask for asylum at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport or border crossing), or
file an application within one year of your arrival in the United States. You may ask later than one year if conditions in your
country have changed or if your personal circumstances have changed within the past year prior to your asking for asylum, and those
changes of circumstances affected your eligibility for asylum. You may also be excused from the one year deadline if extraordinary
circumstance prevented you from filing within the one year period after your arrival, so long as you apply within a reasonable time
given those circumstances. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status, meaning that you may apply even if you
are illegally in the United States.
In addition, you must qualify for asylum under the definition of "refugee." Your eligibility will be based on information you
provide on your application and during an interview with an Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge. If you have been placed in removal
(deportation) proceedings in Immigration Court, an Immigration Judge will hear and decide your case. If you have not been placed in
removal proceedings and apply with the BCIS, an Asylum Officer will interview you and decide whether you are eligible for asylum.
Asylum Officers will grant asylum, deny asylum or refer the case to an Immigration Judge for a final decision.
If an Asylum Officer
finds that you are not eligible for asylum and you are in the United States illegally, the Asylum Officer will place you in removal
proceedings and refer your application to an Immigration Judge for a final decision. Immigration Judges also decide on removal if an
applicant is found ineligible for asylum and is illegally in the United States. If you are in valid immigrant or nonimmigrant status
and the Asylum Officer finds that you are not eligible for asylum, the Asylum Officer will send you a notice explaining that the BCIS
intends to deny your request for asylum. You will be given an opportunity to respond to that notice before a decision is made on