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Legal Information: Federal


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January 29, 2019

What are the benefits of asylum status?

If your asylum application is approved, you will be:

  • protected from having to return to your country of nationality or your last country of residence if you do not have a country of nationality;
  • granted work authorization (an Employment Authorization Document (EAD));
  • allowed to travel abroad with a refugee travel document issued by USCIS1; however do not travel to your home country without getting legal advice as it could affect your asylum status if you return to the country you claim to fear;
  • able to petition for your spouse and/or children to obtain derivative asylum status; and
  • eligible to apply for legal permanent residency (a Green Card) one year after being granted asylum – however, you must be physically present in the U.S. for that year.2

Note: When you apply for a Green Card (permanent residence), your spouse and children are also eligible to apply for a Green Card if they were admitted to the United States as asylees following your grant of asylum, or if they were already in the U.S. with you and were included in your grant of asylum.3

For a more complete list of benefits, you can go to the USCIS website’s “Benefits and Responsibilities of Asylees” page.

1USCIS website
2 8 CFR 209.2(a)(1)(ii)
3 USCIS website

Can family members benefit?

If you have already been granted asylum, you may apply for derivative asylum status for your spouse and/or unmarried minor children under age 21.1 “Derivative asylum status” means that your spouse and/or or children may be granted asylum status based on your own asylum status. You cannot apply for derivative asylum status for any other family members, such as your parents or siblings.

Unmarried minor children (under the age of 21) could include:

  • a stepchild who became your stepchild before s/he turned 18; and
  • an adopted child who was adopted before the age of 16.2

To meet the definition of spouse, you need to be legally married according to your home country’s law. However, the U.S. will not recognize some legal marriages, even if they are considered legal marriages in your home country (for example, polygamous marriages.).

In order to request asylum status for your family, you need to file the proper paperwork within the first two years of being granted asylum status. You may be able to sponsor your family members whether they are in the U.S. or in your home country.3 As always, before filing any forms, we suggest talking to an immigration attorney. You can find an attorney by going to our Finding a Lawyer page or our National Organizations Immigration page.

1 8 CFR § 208.21(a)
2 See 8 CFR § 208.21(b); INA § 101(b)(1)(B), (b)(1)(E)
3 8 CFR § 208.21(c) & (d)

Can I become a lawful permanent resident if I have asylum status? What are the requirements?

If you have asylum status, you may apply for your lawful permanent residency one year after being granted asylum if you:

  • have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one year after being granted asylum;
  • continue to meet the definition of an asylee (or continue to be the spouse or child of such an asylee);
  • are not firmly resettled in any foreign country; and
  • continue to be admissible to the U.S., although a waiver may be available to you if you are deemed to be inadmissible.1

In order to file for adjustment of status to become a legal permanent resident, there are many forms that you need to file. As in any other immigration proceeding, it is always recommended to speak with a lawyer who can help you to file the correct documents. To find a list of legal resources in your area, please see Finding a Lawyer and select your state or see our National Organizations Immigration page.

1 See 8 CFR § 209.2(a); see also USCIS website “Green Card for Asylees”