A person demonstrably persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group; and who has been forced to flee a country where authorities can or will not address their persecution, is eligible to apply for asylum within the United States. Unlike refugees, asylum seekers apply for protection from within or at a point of entry into the U.S. Asylum seekers are encouraged to present themselves at a port of entry, but any nonresident who is present in the territory of the U.S. can apply for asylum within one year of arrival, regardless of whether they entered the country legally or have current legal status.
U.S. immigration law requires asylum seekers submit the I-589 Application for Asylum and for Withholding Removal within one year of their arrival into the United States. Applicants will then be interviewed by an asylum officer to determine they have “credible fear” of persecution in their home country. If the applicant is already in removal proceedings or their original asylum claim is denied, their case will be referred to federal immigration court, where an immigration judge will decide whether or not to grant asylum.
If no asylum decision has been made within 150 days of filing, applicants may receive work authorization. Applicants who have been granted asylee status and receive work authorization can petition to be joined by spouses or unmarried children under 21 years of age, and can apply for legal permanent residency after one year.