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FAQs about seeking asylum

Immigration is a complex process that takes many forms. Often, people see immigration in black-and-white terms: illegal immigration and formally going through the citizenship process. However, there is another type of immigration called seeking asylum. In fact, there were over 250,000 asylum cases filed in 2017.

Achieving asylum status can put a migrant on track to employment qualification, citizenship and bringing family members to America. Pursuing asylum is a complex process, but here is a basic overview. 

What does it mean to seek asylum?

When one seeks asylum, he or she is requesting protection from the United States due to persecution in his or her home country. People may face persecution because of one or more of the following:

  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Political views
  • Membership to a social group

If a migrant can prove this type of persecution, he or she can begin the process of applying for asylum. 

How does the process work?

When a migrant arrives in the U.S., he or she has one year to fill out an asylum application. The necessary form is I-589. This form asks for details regarding persecution, criminal convictions and family information. Applicants can include children and spouses on the application document. 

Once an asylum-seeker submits an application, he or she will undergo background checks and fingerprinting. Then, the applicant must attend an interview with an immigration official. An asylum applicant can have legal representation and an interpreter during this meeting. If the immigration officer deems the applicant eligible, he or she will send it to an immigration court. The immigration judge has the final say when granting or denying asylum. 

What about working in the U.S.?

An applicant must wait 150 days after filing for asylum to have the authorization to work in America. But if granted asylum, the individual can immediately begin working. 

Can asylum-seekers obtain citizenship?

Those who receive asylum status have the ability to apply for U.S. citizenship, but they must wait five years.