Seeking asylum

Frequently Asked Questions

Human Rights First

Am I a refugee?

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because he or she has suffered harm and/or has a well-founded fear of future harm because of who they are.  This may include harm that is based upon one’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or some other characteristic about oneself that cannot be changed, such as one’s sexuality.

Do I qualify for asylum?

You may qualify for asylum if you can establish that you are a refugee and are not subject to any asylum bars. Bars to asylum include:

  • Persecution of others
  • Conviction of certain types of crimes in the United States
  • Commission of serious, non-political crimes outside of the United States
  • Being a danger to national security
  • Terrorist activity
  • Firmly resettling in another country outside of your home country
  • Having a safe third country where you could live
  • Prior asylum denial (except in changed circumstances)
  • Filing for asylum more than one year after arriving in the U.S. (with limited exceptions)

It is important to consult an immigration attorney if you think that you might be barred from qualifying for asylum because of one of these reasons.

Can I bring my family members to the U.S. if I am seeking asylum?

Unfortunately, asylum seekers are not able to bring family members to the U.S. until after they receive asylum.  If you are granted asylum, you may bring qualifying children and your spouse to the United States by filing an I-730 petition.

Do I need to bring an interpreter to the Asylum Office interview?

Yes.  The Asylum Office does not provide interpreters for asylum interviews.  You must bring your own interpreter to your interview.

Do I need to bring an interpreter to Immigration Court?

Generally, interpreters are not provided at Master Calendar hearings.  That will be an opportunity, however, to tell the judge if you will need an interpreter for the Individual hearing.  Court appointed interpreters are provided for Individual hearings.  You must use the Court’s interpreter, not your own, during the Individual hearing.

Do I need to go to my Immigration Court hearing even if I don’t have an attorney?

Yes. If you fail to attend your Immigration Court hearing, the Judge may order you removed from the United States.  At your hearing, you can ask the Judge for more time to find a lawyer.

Are asylum-seekers eligible for benefits such as SNAP/Food Stamps & Medicaid?

In general, asylum seekers are not eligible for federally funded benefits until they receive asylum.  Eligibility for state funded programs varies by state.

I received asylum.  Can I apply for a green card or citizenship?

If you are granted asylum, you may apply for a green card (also known as lawful permanent residence) one year after the date upon which you were granted final asylum status.  Generally, a green card holder can apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years of continuous permanent residence.  Since asylees’ green cards are backdated one year, they can apply to naturalize four years after obtaining permanent residence.