Individuals who fear to return to their country of origin because they will suffer persecution or torture in their country may be eligible to apply for asylum.
Asylum is for individuals who are already in the United States as well as for individuals at ports-of-entry who request asylum relief. Some individuals at ports-of-entry must first go through the credible fear process, which means having an interview with a trained asylum officer to determine that the individual has a credible fear of persecution or torture and thus should be allowed to apply for relief before an immigration court.
The single most important thing to know about asylum is that an individual must file his or her application within one year of entry into the United States. There are two ways to apply for asylum.
- Individuals who are in the United States but not in removal proceedings may file an application with USCIS. Asylum applicants will be scheduled for an interview before a trained asylum officer and if approved, will receive asylee status. Currently, the asylum process before USCIS could take anywhere from several months to several years.
- Individuals who are in removal proceedings, meaning their cases are before one of the immigration courts, must file their asylum applications with the court. These applicants will present their evidence and testimony to the judge and if approved, will receive asylee status. Again, this process could take anywhere from several months to several years.
Asylees are eligible to sponsor spouses and children for asylee status, so long as the petition for a family member is filed within two years from the date the person received asylee status. An asylee may sponsor a spouse and children whether they are living abroad or are in the United States.
After an individual has been an asylee for at least one year, he or she may apply for permanent resident status.