Many people apply for asylum once they’re in the U.S. According to the law, you can do so if you’re unable or unwilling to return to your home country because of persecution (or a well-founded fear of persecution) because of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion. If the U.S. government grants you asylum, you will be permitted to live and work in the United States, and after a year, you can apply for permanent resident status.
But there’s a catch: You must meet the definition of a refugee.
What is the Definition of a Refugee in the U.S.?
A refugee is a person who is outside his or her home country who’s unwilling or unable to return for the same reasons someone would seek asylum. The difference between a refugee and an asylee (someone seeking asylum) is that you ask for refugee status when you’re outside the United States; you ask for asylum if you’re already in the United States.
When Are You Eligible for Asylum in the U.S.?
In order to be eligible for asylum in the U.S., you have to ask for asylum at a port-of-entry of the U.S. (like an airport, seaport or border crossing) or file an application within a year of arriving in the country. However, in some cases, you can ask after a year has passed – such as when your personal circumstances have changed or if conditions in your home country have changed (and those changes affected your eligibility). You could also be excused from the 1-year deadline if extraordinary circumstances prevented you from filing.