Your Rights After Winning Asylum in the U.S.

Once granted asylum in the United States, you are eligible to work, become a permanent resident, gain US citizenship, and more.

If you have been granted asylum in the United States, whether after an affirmative application to the asylum office or a defensive application in immigration court, you have gained important new rights with respect to:

  • staying in the U.S.
  • requesting that your close family members be permitted to join you
  • applying for a work permit
  • traveling in and out of the U.S.
  • receiving social services and assistance, and
  • eventually applying for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence).

We will review all of these here, and also discuss your new responsibilities.

Staying in the U.S.

You are now what is called an asylee. In this status, you are allowed to remain indefinitely in the United States – at least, until conditions in your home country improve and you are no longer afraid to return.

To prove your status, you will receive various documents; an approval notice from the Asylum Office or a judge’s decision from the Immigration Court, as well as a small (but important) card called an I-94 Arrival/Departure record.

With your I-94, you can apply for a U.S. Social Security card, which you will need to show employers so that they can see your right to work and can make the required tax deductions from your paycheck. To apply for a Social Security card, go to www.ssa.gov, call its toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213, or visit a local Social Security office.

Reuniting With Your Overseas Family Members

You may have already gained asylum for family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age) who were in the U.S. with you, and who were included in your application for asylum. However, if some of them remained overseas up until now, you can petition for them to join you, or to receive what is called  "derivative asylum status." Note that the persons must have qualified as your spouse or child on the date you were granted asylum and the relationship must continue to exist. In other words, you cannot marry or adopt someone now and claim them as your derivative. Nor can you bring in a spouse from whom you have divorced.

To request derivative asylum status, submit USCIS Form I-730, Refugee and Asylee Relative Petition, to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center.  The form is available for free download on the "I-730: Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition" page of the USCIS website.

There is a deadline: You must file the form I-730 for each qualifying family member within two years of the date you were granted asylum. If you’ve missed that date, talk to an attorney. It is possible for USCIS to make an exception and extend this time period for humanitarian reasons.

Applying for a Work Permit

As an asylee, you have the right to work authorization in the United States -- which comes with a handy photo ID card. If you were granted by the Asylum Office, it should help arrange for an application to be sent to USCIS on your behalf, on Form I-765. If not, you must fill out and submit Form I-765 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It will send you a photo-identity card, which you’ll use to show employers (and others) proving who you are, and that you are allowed to work.

For more information on filling out and submitting Form I-765, see How to Apply for a U.S. Work Permit (EAD). No fee is required with your first I-765.
Responsibility to Pay U.S. Taxes

As residents of the United States, asylees must pay income and other taxes. Tax returns, and (if you earned enough) payment of taxes to the federal and state government are due every April 15. Nonprofit agencies may be able to help you with your tax return at low cost or for free.

Traveling In and Out of the U.S.

Asylees are allowed to travel outside the United States. However, even if you already have your own passport, you will need to get a Refugee Travel Document for use when reentering the United States. You can apply for this by filing USCIS Form I-131. It’s available for free download on the USCIS website. If you don’t have your own passport, this document will be accepted by other countries as a passport equivalent.

One important caution: Do not travel back to the country from which you gained asylum. If you do, then you may be found to have given up your asylee status, because you no longer fear persecution there.

Applying for a Green Card

As an asylee, you may apply for U.S. lawful permanent resident status after you have been physically present in the United States for one year following the date you were granted asylum.

To apply, you must go through a procedure known as "adjustment of status". You will need to mail USCIS Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, together with various forms, documents, and a fee.

Prepare one of these packets for yourself and one for each qualifying family member. If you have a child who will turn 21 years old prior to the completion of the adjustment process, don’t worry: The child shall continue to be classified as a child for purposes of getting a green card if he or she was under 21 years of age on the date you filed the asylum application.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen

After five years as a permanent resident, you may apply for U.S. citizenship. And good news: One year of your asylee status counts toward these five years. (In fact, if you look on your green card, you'll see that USCIS has already made this calculation for you, and rolled back your date of admission as a permanent resident by one year.)

Other Benefits

Asylees are eligible to apply for certain types of cash and medical assistance, job search assistance, career counseling, and more. Contact the Office of Refugee Resettlement or ORR, at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/.  While you are not eligible for all the benefits that refugees are – refugees being people who were granted status before arriving in the U.S. – you are eligible for some of them, and for help from the ORR.

Your Responsibilities

As an asylee, you must also be aware of your responsibilities under U.S. law. An important one is that your notify USCIS of any change in your address. You must do so within ten days of moving using Form AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address Card.  You can file this online at the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov.

If you are a male asylee between the ages of 18 and 26, you must register for the U.S. Selective Service – that is, the list of people who may be called upon in a military draft. Sign on to the Selective Service website at www.sss.gov or pick up a Selective Service “mail-back” registration form at your nearest U.S. post office.

Of course, you must also comply with other U.S. laws, for example by filing an annual U.S. tax return (if you are earning income) and not committing any crimes.

Failure to comply with these responsibilities could result in loss of your status and right to remain in the United States.

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