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USCIS application procedures: Political Asylum & Refugee Status
Political Asylum & Refugee Status


(Seeking Asylum in the USA)

In 1981, the Refugee Act was passed. Asylum and/or Refugee Status was to be granted to anyone outside of his or her own country of Nationality (or already in the United StatesS) who is "unable or unwilling to return 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".

Difference between Refugee Status and Political Asylum: Both refugees and asylees must fall under this category. The most important difference is that the Refugee status application is done outside the applicant's home country as opposed to the Asylee who can apply while in the United States.

Who Can Apply?

  • You must be applying for political asylum based on an actual experience of persecution in your home country or fear of persecution based on race, religion, or political opinion.
  • If you are physically present within the United States, you must apply for asylum within one year, unless you can prove that extraordinary circumstances kept you from applying within that year. Otherwise, you may apply upon entering the United States.
  • You may apply for political asylum even if you are illegally in the United States.
  • You may not qualify for political asylum if you have participated in the persecution of others or if you have "firmly resettled" in a country other than your home country. Firmly resettled means you have obtained permanent residency in a country other than your home country or the United States.

  • If you meet the qualifications, you may be approved for political asylum unless the USCIS proves that conditions substantially improved in your home country.

    Political Asylum allows you to stay and work in the United States temporarily. An asylum seeker may ask for Derivative Status for his or her spouse and children.

    There is no quota limit on the number of people who may obtain political asylum, however, there is an annual limit of 10,000 on the number of people who may obtain permanent residency based on political asylum.
How do I Apply?
    There are 2 general steps in the application process for political asylum.

  • The first step involves filing your application (Form I-589, Request for Asylum and supporting documents) and having an interview with the USCIS regional service center. If the application is approved, you can legally stay in the United States for one year and apply to work as well. If the application is denied, you may ask for reconsideration of your case. If still denied, you may enter an appeals process.
  • If approved, you may file for Permanent Residency after one year. You will submit form (I-485) and supporting documents as well as have another interview with the USCIS.
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