Political Asylum

Political asylum is available to people already in the United States who fear returning to their home country due to actual persecution or have a well-founded fear of actual persecution because of:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group
  • Political opinion

If you're still in your home country and have these fears, you may be able to become a "refugee."

Eligibility for Asylum

In order to get asylum in the United States, you must ask for it at a port of entry (such as an airport or border crossing) or file an application within one year of arriving in the United States. Exceptions to the one-year rule might be if conditions in your home country have changed, or if your personal circumstances have changed and those changes affect your eligibility for asylum. The time you spend in the United States with a valid visa isn't counted as part of the one-year period.

You may not be eligible for asylum if you yourself have participated in persecution of others, or if you've "firmly resettled" in a country other than your home country (for example, by obtaining permanent residency in a country other than your home country or the United States). And fear of poverty or random violence isn't of itself enough to qualify you for asylum.

There is no limit on how many people may be granted political asylum each year in the United States.

Application Process

To apply for asylum, you must complete and file a BCIS (INS) Form I-589 (Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal).

It normally takes not more than 180 days from the day you file your application to complete the process. There isn't a fee. Your application should be sent to the BCIS (INS) Service Center that has jurisdiction over your place of residence (which is detailed in the instructions that come with Form I-589).

You'll also have an interview with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (" USCIS") regional service center in your area.

If your application is approved, you can legally stay in the United States for one year. If you application is denied, you may ask for reconsideration and begin an appeals process.


You must wait at least 150 days after the BCIS (INS) has received your complete application before you can apply for employment authorization. The BCIS (INS) has 30 days to grant or deny your request for employment.

Derivative Status

As a political asylee, you may also get what's called "derivative status" for your spouse and children.

Permanent Resident Status

After you've been an approved asylee in the United States for a year, you can apply for adjustment to a lawful permanent resident status. But only 10,000 asylees a year are given the opportunity to adjust to lawful permanent resident status in the United States.

You file for Permanent Residency by submitting an I-485 form and supporting documents, and interview again with the USCIS.

Travel Outside the United States

If you're applying for asylum and want to travel outside the United States, you must received advance permission- called "advance parole" - before you leave the United States in order to be allowed back into the United States.

Temporary Safe Haven

The United States government sometimes gives citizens of a particular country what's called "temporary safe haven" in the United States when conditions in their home country become too dangerous. This is called "temporary protected status" or "TPS." TPS is much like asylum, except that it is always temporary, and won't by itself qualify you for a green card.

Related Web Sites United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

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