How Does Asylum Work in the United States?

Difference Between Asylum and Refugee Status

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, both asylum and refugee status are protective classifications that provide distinct benefits to persons who qualify. However, there are some important differences between the two.

Refugee status extends protection to people who “are of special humanitarian concern to the United States” and are “outside of their country [or are] unable or unwilling to return home because they fear serious harm.” Refugee status must be sought on a referral basis outside the US. Asylum, on the other hand, offers protection to people who qualify for refugee status, have already come to the United States, and are attempting to enter the country from a particular place.

Eligibility for Asylum in the US

Asylum can be extended to people who fear persecution in their country of origin due to their faith, ethnicity, political ties, race, or other social involvement. You must meet the basic requirements for refugee status in order to qualify for asylum. If granted asylum, a refugee will be allowed to stay in the United States and will not be forced to return to the country from which they have fled.

How to Obtain Asylum in the US

In the United States, there are two routes you can take to securing asylum: the affirmative process and the defensive process. Depending on the circumstances of your immigration and the reasons for leaving your country of origin, one path may be better than the other.

  • Affirmative Asylum Process: To take this route, you must currently reside in the United States. In order to qualify, you must submit your application for asylum within 12 months of your arrival to the country. (This time limit may be overridden in special circumstances. If your application requires you to provide reasons for applying outside this 12-month timeframe, get the help of an immigration attorney right away.) Affirmative asylum applicants are typically allowed to remain in the US while their application is being processed, though they are typically not permitted to work during this time.
  • Defensive Asylum Process: If you are already being threatened with removal from the United States, you may be able to apply for defensive asylum as a means of avoiding deportation or return to dangerous circumstances in your country of origin. This path to asylum is typically taken by people who have been arrested for residing in or entering the country illegally.

Call a Cleveland Immigration Lawyer Today

Regardless of your current immigration status, country of origin, or reason for fleeing to the United States, an experienced legal professional can help you navigate the unique difficulty of becoming established in a new country. Get in touch with a member of our team at Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A. right away to learn what a Cleveland immigration attorney can do for you.

Call us at (888) 491-8770 or send us a message to start your free case evaluation today.