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Understanding the Asylum Process

Every year, millions of foreign-born individuals seek protection or “asylum” in the United States. Many are fleeing past or potential violence or persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, or affiliation with a particular social or political group. While the path to asylum is not a simple one, this protective status offers numerous benefits for refugees seeking to live and work in the United States.

Defining Asylum

Asylum is a protected status granted to noncitizens who have either already entered the United States or are seeking entry at the border. The United States Congress adopted the international definition of refugee in the Refugee Act of 1980.

Refugees are people who cannot or will not return to their homeland because of past or potential future exposure to violence or persecution in their country of origin. The Refugee Act established two means of obtaining refugee status: as a resettled refugee transported from another country, or as an asylee or person seeking asylum in the U.S.

Benefits Associated with Asylum

Asylum offers many benefits including:

  • Ability to request permission to travel abroad
  • Access to benefits including Medicaid and other medical assistance
  • Authorization to work in the United States
  • Opportunity to petition to bring family members to this country
  • Protection from returning to an unsafe homeland
  • Right to apply for a Social Security card

In addition to all these benefits, an asylee can apply for permanent resident status after one year. After becoming a permanent resident, the asylee can apply for citizenship after a four-year waiting period.

The Asylum Application Process

The first step in the asylum process is to complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal which is found on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. There are generally two ways an individual can apply for asylum:

Affirmative Asylum

This option is for those who are not in removal proceedings. Individuals seeking affirmative asylum apply through USCIS. If the asylum seeker does not have lawful immigrant status and their application is not approved, they may be referred to immigration court for removal hearings. At this point, the asylee can seek protection through the defensive process.

Defensive Asylum

This option is for people already in removal proceedings. The asylee files their application with the immigration judge at the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR.) In this scenario, asylum protection essentially becomes a defense against removal.

Anyone seeking asylum has the burden to prove they have a legitimate fear of persecution back in their homeland. This is expressed through personal testimony about their situation. Anyone perceived to pose a threat to United States citizens is prohibited from seeking asylum, as are those who wait longer than a year to apply for protection.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Represent Clients Seeking Asylum

Because there are strict deadlines for those seeking asylum to apply for protection, it is essential for asylum seekers to obtain the counsel of a knowledgeable Philadelphia immigration lawyer as soon as possible. At Surin & Griffin, P.C., we are dedicated to resolving your tough immigration matters quickly and effectively. We help clients with concerns about visas, appeals, sponsorship, and removal.

We review your situation and recommend the best legal remedy for you and your family. To schedule a consultation with a Philadelphia immigration lawyer, call 215-925-4435 or use our convenient web form to contact us online. Based in Center City Philadelphia, Surin & Griffin represents clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania and nationwide.