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Legal Information: Federal

Immigration

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Updated: 
December 17, 2020

What are the benefits of asylum status?

If your asylum application is approved, you will be allowed to live and work legally in the U.S.1 You will be able to apply for lawful permanent residence (a “green card”) after you have been in asylum status in the U.S. for one year.2 Unfortunately, you will not qualify for public benefits.

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 INA § 209(b); 8 USC § 1159(b); 8 CFR § 209.2(a)(1)(ii)
3 USCIS website

Can my family members get asylum?

If you are 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); INA § 208(b)(3); 8 USC § 1158(b)(3)
2 See 8 CFR § 208.21(b); INA § 101(b)(1)(B), (b)(1)(E)
3 8 CFR § 208.21(c) & (d)

When and how can I become a lawful permanent resident if I have asylum status?

If you have asylum status, you may apply for lawful permanent residence one year after being granted asylum. You will have to show that:

  • you been in the U.S. for at least one year; and
  • you are not prevented from becoming a lawful permanent resident due to the “grounds of inadmissibility.”1Note: If the grounds of inadmissibility do apply to you, you can ask the government to “waive” them for humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or if it’s in “the public interest.”2 In other words, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will consider the pros and cons of your application to decide whether you should get lawful permanent residence despite the fact that you one or more of the grounds of inadmissibility apply to you.

You must work with an immigration attorney to figure out whether the special “inadmissibility ground” barriers apply to you. Some of the inadmissibility rules do not apply to asylum applicants2 but the rules are very complicated and your lawyer will need to know what the immigration and federal courts have said about them to answer the government’s questions correctly. Plus, it is easy to file the wrong forms, fill them out wrong, or forget to include something you must include. 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 INA § 209(b)(5); 8 USC § 1159(b)(5)
2 INA § 209(c); 8 USC § 1159(c)