Asylum is a place of safety and refuge. In immigration law, it is a promise of protection in another country when your own country threatens your life or safety due to your race, political beliefs, religion, or other personal or social choices. The threat can come from your country's government or from others acting outside the law there. You don't have to be physically harmed to seek asylum in the United States. It's enough that you believe you would be harmed if you did not leave the former country.
Asylum Doesn't Always Start With a Visa
If you're in danger, you can flee to the United States right away, even if you can't do it legally by applying for a visa first. You can take the necessary steps toward legally applying for asylum after you get into the country, no matter how you got here. You have to apply within a year, however.
Asylum Involves Filing a Petition
After you reach the United States, you can ask for asylum by filing Form I-589 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is an Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.
You Can Resist Being Sent Home
If the USCIS rejects your application for asylum, all is not lost. It doesn't mean you have to return to your country immediately. The USCIS will send your case to a federal judge, who will review your situation all over again. You can remain in the United States until this process resolves. If you arrive in the United States, don't apply for asylum, and if you're in danger of being deported because you don't have a visa or other documentation allowing you to be here, your case will also go directly to a judge.
You Can Bring Your Family
You can bring your spouse or children to the United States with you. They must be included in your Form I-589. If you were forced to leave them behind, you can file a separate form, Form I-730, asking permission for them to come to the United States. To qualify, your children must be under 21 and not married. You must make the request within two years of your USCIS grant of asylum.
A Green Card Requires Another Step
Those who are granted asylum can apply for a green card, or permanent, non-citizen residency within the United States. You must do so within a year. The process involves filing another petition with the USCIS. If you need green cards for family members, you must fill out a separate application for your spouse and each of your children.
An Immigration Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding asylum in the United States is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an immigration lawyer.