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Asylum Refugee

Every year, conflict, war, pandemic, and well-founded fear of persecution displace millions of individuals from their home countries. Historically, the United States has continuously offered a place to those escaping different types of civil unrest. Delve deeper and discover the complexities and rules surrounding asylum applications. This page discusses the intricacies of seeking asylum in the United States.

How To Apply for Asylum or Refugee Status

Understanding the differences between an asylee and a refugee is the first step in navigating U.S. immigration laws.

Definition of a Refugee

A refugee is a foreign national unable or unwilling to go back to their home country due to a credible fear of persecution based on their religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Thus, the USCIS gives refugee status to individuals who:

  • Are located outside of the United States
  • Are of particular humanitarian concern to the United States
  • Show that they suffered human rights violations or are experiencing reasonable fear of persecution based on nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group
  • Are not resettled in another country
  • Are admissible to enter the United States

Applying for Refugee Status

For consideration as a refugee, you should receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Once you receive this referral, you can get assistance in completing your application. Afterward, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will interview you. The USCIS officer will determine your eligibility for refugee resettlement.

Your refugee status application may include your spouse, unmarried child under 21 years old, and, in limited cases, other family members. Note that there is no fee for applying for refugee status.

Once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves your application for refugee resettlement, they will send you a notification containing the following:

  • Medical exam
  • Cultural orientation
  • Assistance with your travel plans
  • Loan for your trip to the United States

Those who pass the national security check, public health medical exam, and receive the USCIS approval are eligible for resettlement. The U.S. Department of State Resettlement of Support Centers (RSCs), in coordination with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), organizes the travel to the United States. Before leaving their country of origin, they should sign a promissory note to repay the U.S. for the cost of their travel.

The U.S. government gives Afghan nationals priority cases, which are as follows:

  • Priority 1: Individual cases are assessed and referred to the UNHCR program, U.S. embassy, or designated non-government organization.
  • Priority 2: The Department of State announced on August 2, 2021, the priority two designation for certain nationals of Afghanistan and their eligible family members.
  • Priority 3: Family reunification is priority three for spouses, unmarried children under age 21, or parents of those already admitted to the country as asylees or refugees.

Definition of an Asylee

An asylee has the exact definition as that of a refugee. They are the refugees seeking "haven" in a different country. Compared to a refugee outside of the U.S. seeking an application to come to the country, an asylee is a refugee who is already inside the United States.

Applying for Asylum Status

If you are physically present in the U.S., you can file an Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal (Form I-589). You can file this form within one year of your arrival in the United States.

As an asylum seeker, you may include your spouse, unmarried children under 21 years old, and family members in your asylum application.

For more information related to refugee and asylum applications, you can visit the USCIS website. They have fact sheets that you can access for free.

What To Expect During the Application Process

The initial phase is filing for the refugee or asylum application. After the filing, you should expect the following steps during the application process.

The Interview

An asylum officer or immigration judge interviews all applicants and decides whether to grant their claim. These interviews often involve close questioning about the applicant's claims and the documented conditions in their home country.

The Decision

After examining the evidence and interviewing the applicant, the asylum officer or immigration judge issues an approval or denial of the claim. The asylee may apply for permanent resident status through another process if approved. If denied, the applicant may appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Types of Asylum Decisions

An asylum claim has several possible outcomes once an application has been submitted and an interview has occurred:

  • Grant of Asylum: An approved application is granted, and an I-94 document indicates that the person has lawful status in the United States.
  • Recommended Approval: An asylum officer who has examined the case and found it eligible for approval but is still waiting for the results of the necessary background investigation, may provide a recommended approval until the checks are complete. A recommended approval provides some, but not all, benefits of a grant of asylum.
  • Referral to Immigration Court: If the asylum officer cannot approve an application and the applicant is out of status, the case may be referred to an immigration judge. This is not a denial; the judge will consider the asylum application anew.
  • Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID): An applicant in status and found eligible for denial may receive a NOID offering an opportunity to rebut any opposing evidence.
  • Final Denial: A final denial provides the reasons for denying an asylum claim.

Learn more about the asylum process and possible outcomes. Access resources and find an attorney to assist using the links below.

Employment Authorization

You may file an Application for Employment Authorization Document (Form I-765) as a refugee or asylee.

If you are a refugee, once you are admitted to the U.S., you will have the Form I-94 that contains an admission stamp. In addition, an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) may also be filed. This will allow you to work in the country. However, the waiting period for the approval of employment authorization could take time. When this happens, you can present your I-94 as proof of your authorization to work.

On the other hand, if you have a pending asylum application, you may file an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765). You can file Form I-765 after 150 days from the time you applied for your asylum application.

Once the USCIS grants your asylum application, you can work immediately. However, if they deny your application, your employment authorization will expire either on its expiration date or 60 days after the denial date, whichever is later.

For more information about employment authorization for refugees and asylees, visit the USCIS website.

Number of Asylum Applications in the U.S. as of 2022

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the U.S. received 431,000 asylum applications in 2022. However, out of this number, only 47% received positive results, with 53% of the applications rejected. The following are the top 10 countries with the highest number of asylum applications to the U.S. in the fiscal year of 2022:


Number of Applications

















El Salvador




The rise of migrants from third countries, the Central American region through Mexico, unaccompanied minors, and other foreign nations emphasizes the complex situation in these regions. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has also seen an increase in the number of migrants arriving at U.S. ports of entry.

Can an Asylee or Refugee Be Deported?

Any non-U.S. citizen can be deported from the United States. Several factors come into play when it comes to the deportation or removal of foreign nationals from the U.S. These factors may include the following:

  • Violation of U.S. immigration laws
  • Commitment of criminal acts or activities
  • Posing a threat to U.S. communities or national security

Enforcement of U.S. Immigration Laws

Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which dramatically changed the enforcement of immigration laws. This Act established the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its three principal agencies:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

The USCIS oversees legal immigration to the United States. This agency processes refugee and asylum applications and other administration of visa and immigration-related concerns. The USCIS also handles deportation and removal proceedings.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

The CBP handles law enforcement at U.S. ports of entry. It plays a crucial role in handling national security by securing U.S. borders and enforcing U.S. regulation policies.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

The ICE enforces laws related to border control, customs, and trade. They are also devoted to three operation directorates, which are Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA), and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Seek Legal Advice From an Immigration Law Attorney

The intricacies of immigration laws, particularly when handling asylum and refugee cases, can be challenging. International laws and Supreme Court rulings may affect these cases. On top of that, each administration may pass an executive order affecting the rules surrounding the enforcement of immigration laws. For instance, the executive orders in the previous Trump administration may not apply to the present Biden administration.

Due to these ever-changing rules, it is recommended that you seek help from an immigration attorney near you. They can assist you with understanding the asylum system and how the changes in U.S. laws may affect your immigration status. They can also offer various legal services related to immigration. This may include an application for lawful permanent residency or naturalization. FindLaw has a directory of immigration law attorneys in every state.

It may also be helpful to consult with an attorney if you are a refugee in the United States seeking permanent residence or other benefits. Whether from Syria, El Salvador, Venezuela, Guatemala, or any other country where you have been forced to flee, you may qualify for benefits once in the United States.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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