If your asylum application is granted, you become an asylee. However, you do not automatically receive a green card. You will be eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) one year after receiving your asylum status. Your spouse and children are eligible to apply for a green card if they were admitted to the United States as asylees or were included in your grant of asylum. Please note that you are not required to apply for a green card, but it may be in your best interest to do so.
If you are an asylee, you may apply for a green card one year after being granted asylum, if you:
- Have been physically present in the United States for at least one year after being granted asylum.
- Continue to meet the definition of an asylee (or continue to be the spouse or child of such asylee).
- Have not abandoned your asylee status.
- Are not firmly resettled in any foreign country.
- Continue to be admissible to the United States (a waiver may be available to you if you are now inadmissible).
Similar to the adjustment of status based on the marriage process, you must file the Application to Register Permanent Residence or the Adjust Status Form (I-485) in order to apply for a green card. You will need to supply supporting documentation as required by USCIS.
One important difference between applying for a green card based on asylum, and marriage-based adjustment, is that asylees do not need to submit an affidavit of support to prove they will not become a “public charge”. An asylee can receive public benefits such as food stamps and qualify for a green card. A family-based applicant, on the other hand, needs to show that he or she has financial support and will not rely on US government support.
When you receive your green card through asylum, your permanent residence as asylee will be back-dated to take into account the year you had to wait before applying.
Additionally, as an asylee and as a permanent resident of the United States after asylum, you have important US protection that is not available to other permanent residents. Here is how it works: If you are an asylee you should not use your home country’s passport to travel to another country from the US, because you risk being detained or extradited from the country of your destination to your home country. If you use your home country passport, the country of your travel will treat you as a citizen of the country of your persecution and, if there are any issues or if there is an extradition treaty between the two countries, you risk being sent back to the country of your persecution. To avoid this, an asylee should apply for a refugee travel document. A refugee travel document is a document issued by the US government announcing to the world that the US government granted you asylum protection and that any other country in the world should treat you as a US refugee, without the regard of your national origin. This means you do not have to rely on your home country for protection.
The main downside of obtaining a green card through asylee status is the lengthy wait before your asylum case is decided and the longer wait time to qualify for citizenship than through marriage with a US citizen. There is also always a risk that your asylum application can be denied or referred to an immigration court. This could happen if the asylum officer decides that you do not have a well-founded fear of persecution in your home country.