Asylum is immigration protection and rights given to you, a foreigner, who comes to the U.S. You may be allowed to stay in the U.S. if you can prove that you were persecuted in your home country or will suffer persecution if you return to your home country. You can also include your spouse and unmarried children under 21. Through asylum you may possibly become a permanent resident and citizen after several years if you have a strong asylum case.
II. Basic requirements for asylum
1. Grounds for asylum
To be eligible for asylum you have to prove that you suffered persecution or you will suffer persecution because of any of the following grounds:
Membership in a particular social group
* Note that you can apply for more than one ground of asylum. For example, you can show that you were persecuted because of your nationality and particular social group.
2. Timing and place of submission
File your asylum application within one year of your arrival to the United States (but note there are timing exceptions). Or when you ask for asylum at the port-of-entry (border crossing, airport) you have to apply within one year of your arrival through this entry point.
3. No bar to asylum
You may not be eligible for asylum if you committed certain crimes in the past, had a previous asylum application denied, and can be removed to a safe third country (depending on agreements between the U.S. and other countries).
III. Benefits of asylum
1. Green card
After about a year of getting asylum status, you, your spouse and children under 21 will be eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence).
2. Employment authorization
Although you cannot apply for employment authorization at the same time you apply for asylum, you can apply for it later if:
150 days have passed since your filing of your asylum application; and
No decision has been made on your case yet.
* Note that if you are given asylum status, you can work even if you do not have an Employment Authorization Document.
3. Social Security Card
If you are given asylum status, then you can immediately apply for a Social Security card.
You can petition certain family members if you entered the U.S. as a refugee within the past two years or were given asylum within the past two years.
5. Travel Documents
If you want to travel outside the U.S. while applying for or after getting asylum status, you have to get permission to travel. Consult first with an attorney prior to traveling outside the U.S.
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