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Frequently Asked Questions About Seeking Asylum

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With so much information circulating around the world wide web, it can be hard to sort fact from fiction. If you are in a position of seeking asylum in the U.S., being certain of your sources may be a matter of life or death. Here, we aim to answer such frequently asked questions as, “Am I a refugee?,” “Do I qualify for asylum?,” “Can I bring family members to the U.S.?,” and so forth.

In strict terms, a refugee is a person forced to flee their country because they have suffered harm and/or have demonstrable reason to fear future harm because of race, religion, sexuality, nationality, political opinion or some other immutable aspect of their person.

If you are a refugee you may qualify for asylum so long as you are not subject to asylum bars. These include, but are not limited to persecution of others, conviction of certain crimes within the U.S., commission of serious, non-political crimes outside the U.S., being a danger to U.S. national security, terrorist activity, having firmly resettled in a country other than your home country, having a safe third country in which you could live, prior asylum denial without changed circumstances, and filing for asylum more than one year after arriving to the U.S. (with limited exceptions). If you think you may be barred from applying for asylum for any of these reasons, it is essential that you consult an immigration attorney.

Asylum seekers are not permitted to bring family members to the U.S. until after asylum has been granted. Once in possession of asylum, you may bring qualifying children and your spouse to the United States by filing an I-730 petition.

When attending an Asylum Office interview, you must bring your own interpreter. It is strongly advised that you seek a professional interpreter for your interview as clear communication critical. Local organizations often provide free access to qualified interpreters, and in some cases, your immigration attorney may also be able to translate. Choudhury Law is able to translate Bengali, Urdu and Hindu for its clients.

Whether or not you have a lawyer, you must attend your Immigration Court hearing. Should you fail to do so, the presiding Judge may order you removed from the U.S. At your hearing, you can request time to find a lawyer.

Until you have been granted asylum, you are not eligible to receive federally funded benefits such as Food Stamps and Medicaid. This said, state funded programs have varying eligibility criteria that may be worth looking investigating.

Once granted asylum, you become eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency (a green card) and may do so one year after the date upon which your final asylum status was granted. After five years of permanent residence, most green card holders can apply for U.S. citizenship. As an asylee, your green card will be backdated by one year and therefore you can apply to naturalize after four years of permanent residency.

Ask the Immigration Attorney—For FREE!

There are so many nuances to the immigration laws that affect asylum seekers—if you still have questions, you can ask immigration attorney, Amena Choudhury, for free! Using the brief form below, submit your most pressing question and she will respond with an answer shortly.

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