What Are the Benefits of Asylum?
The most important benefit of asylum status is you cannot be deported to your home country, protecting you from the harm or persecution you fear. Asylees also enjoy numerous other significant benefits, however, including the means to permanently immigrate to the United States.
- Live in the United States
- Work in the United States
- Apply for Social Security, Medicaid, and Refugee Medical Assistance
- Request authorization to travel abroad and return
- Petition to permit family members to join you in the country
- Seek lawful permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship
Asylees are able to apply for a green card, which grants them lawful permanent residency, at any point after the one-year anniversary of their status being granted. After successfully obtaining a green card through this method, an asylee can wait 4 years and then become eligible to apply for citizenship.
How Seeking Asylum Works
The process for seeking asylum depends on how you begin the process. The two procedures are called “affirmative asylum” and “defensive asylum.”
If you are not currently in removal proceedings in immigration court but wish to seek asylum, you will do so through the affirmative asylum process. This requires you to proactively request asylum consideration through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
You should always consult an experienced lawyer before seeking asylum in this manner, as affirmative asylum carries inherent risks that should be carefully weighed. When you proactively seek asylum, USCIS agents will evaluate whether you fulfill the criteria. If they determine you do not, and you do not otherwise have valid immigration status, you will likely be summoned for removal proceedings, placing you at risk for deportation. At this point, you can attempt to seek asylum again through defensive asylum.
The defensive asylum process is used by asylum seekers who are already in removal proceedings. Persons in these situations are at risk for deportation and argue they have a well-founded fear of persecution or violence should they be removed and returned to their home countries; in other words, asylum is utilized as “defensive” relief. Keep in mind that you will likely need the skills of a qualified attorney to assist you in arguing you are entitled to asylum protections, but immigration courts are not obligated to provide you with legal counsel.
If you are attempting to seek asylum at the border of the United States, you will in most situations be placed in expedited removal proceedings intended to and expected to use the defensive asylum method. You will need to inform a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer that you fear persecution or violence if you are removed, triggering a “Credible Fear” screening.
It is important to understand that a Credible Fear screening is only a preliminary evaluation and will not determine asylum status. The officer conducting the screening will determine if there is a “significant possibility” that the person will qualify for asylum protections, which in turn submits them to an actual defense asylum hearing in court. If they feel there is not a significant possibility, the individual is placed back in removal proceedings, where they will have one more chance to appeal the decision. Should a judge agree there is credible fear, the individual will be able to formally seek defensive asylum.
If you attempt to reenter the U.S. after previously being removed or have been convicted of certain crimes in the country, you will be placed in the reinstatement of removal process. If you fear persecution in your home country, you can request a “reasonable fear” interview, which works differently than other asylum processes. As the name would imply, you will be expected to demonstrate you have a reasonable fear of violence should you return to your home country as a result of one of the eligible factors.
If government agents feel there is reasonable fear, you will be able to for “withholding of removal,” which prevents your deportation on account of potential persecution. However, withholding of removal is more challenging to prove and also does not confer the same benefits as asylum status. For example, you will not be able to pursue lawful permanent residency or citizenship.
How We Can Help You as Asylum Law is Changing
Even though the rights of refugees and the institution of seeking asylum are specifically spelled out in immigration law, changing political administrations often bring significant changes to how policies are interpreted and implemented. Over the past several years, seeking asylum has become substantially more challenging, especially for those pursuing defensive asylum at the border.
Remember that legal counsel is not constitutionally guaranteed or given in immigration court proceedings. Having our Greer asylum defense attorneys on your side can help you navigate the constantly metastasizing rules and steps to successfully seeking asylum, even with the more restrictive changes.
At Colón Law Firm, we are client-centered and results-driven. We have a complete familiarity with the changing laws surrounding asylum and will leverage our knowledge and experience to help you fight for the protections you deserve.