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Immigration Law

The United States As A Safe Haven For Refugees

Every year thousands of foreign nationals enter the United States fleeing persecution they are facing in their home countries. For those who meet the legal criteria, the U.S. offers a form of protection -- asylum. Those who are eligible for asylum are allowed to remain in the United States, and eventually are eligible to apply for permanent residency.

An applicant must be a refugee in order to be eligible for asylum. The definition of a refugee requires that the applicant be:

  • unable or unwilling to return to or avail himself or herself of the protection of the country of his or her nationality or, if stateless, the country where he or she last habitually resided
  • because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution
  • on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Any person who is in the United States may apply for asylum. This holds true even if that person is here without any valid immigration status. There are two ways in which a person may apply for asylum -- by either affirmative filing or applying for asylum during removal proceedings.

Affirmative filing involves a person preparing an application for asylum and submitting this to Immigration Services. Applicants will then be scheduled to be interviewed by an asylum officer. The purpose of this interview is to determine if the applicant meets the definition of a refugee and to ensure that the applicant does not face any bars to asylum. A person will usually not receive a decision at the interview but should receive a decision in a few weeks.

The second way a person can apply for asylum is if they have been placed in removal proceedings in Immigration Court. The applicant will then apply for asylum and the immigration judge will make the final determination as to whether the applicant meets the definition of a refugee.

There are several legal bars that will prevent a person from obtaining asylum in the United States. A person will be denied asylum if that person is found to have ever committed an act of terrorism, been involved in the persecution of others, committed a particularly serious crime in the U.S. or is considered to be a danger to U.S. security. Other bars to asylum include the possibility of safely residing in a third country or the circumstances materially affecting the applicant's eligibility for asylum.

A person who is granted asylum takes on the legal status of Asylee. This allows him or her to reside in the United States as long as the threat of persecution in his or her home country continues. The Asylee can also have his or her spouse and unmarried children under age 21 enter the United States, if not already in the country. Additionally, an Asylee can receive a travel document to travel in an out of the U.S. as well as employment authorization. Finally, a year after an Asylee has been granted asylum, he or she becomes eligible to apply for permanent residency.

For more information on asylum or to determine if you may be eligible for asylum in the United States, please contact us.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

From Immigration-Law-Answers-Blog posted 2007-01-24.

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