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Claiming asylum in the United States

For people who are fleeing their home country due to fear of persecution, the United States offers valuable protection by granting them asylum. 

To qualify for asylum, immigrants must meet the definition of a refugee and apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the U.S. 

What is a refugee?

According to Chapter 12 of the Aliens and Nationality Code, a refugee must meet certain qualifications. A refugee is escaping his or her country of origin or residence due to a fear of persecution. The persecution he or she is escaping must be based on his or her race, political opinion, religion, membership of a group or nationality. 

Those who are involved in the persecution of other persons cannot then flee to the U.S. to seek asylum to avoid justice. 

What happens after someone obtains asylum status?

A refugee who obtains asylum status becomes an “asylee” and is eligible for certain benefits. The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services website explains that the following benefits are generally granted to asylees: 

  • A Refugee Travel Document 
  • The right to remain in the U.S. indefinitely 
  • Authorization to gain employment in the U.S. 
  • The right to request asylum for certain family members 
  • An unrestricted Social Security card 
  • Cash, employment and medical assistance 

Can asylees lose their status?

Asylees can lose asylum status in certain situations. If changes occur that make it so the asylee would no longer face persecution in his or her own country, for example, the government may revoke his or her status. For people who are interested in staying in the U.S. permanently, obtaining citizenship is the best path. 

Asylum is not permanent citizenship, but it does offer many protections. 

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