The word “asylum” actually means protection or shelter from danger. Politically, refuge is protection granted by a government to an individual who has fled his or her native country as a political refugee – typically when the individual faces danger if he or she were to return home.

Along with being the land of the free and the home of the brave, the United States has historically been a sanctuary for individuals in need of protection from the dangers in their home countries. If they are granted refuge, individuals are allowed to work and live in the United States, but the status is only granted to individuals who meet certain requirements.

Requirements for Asylum

First of all, a person leaving his or her home country need not be approved for refuge  before entering the United States. Instead, individuals seeking asylum are allowed to apply for the status within one year of arriving in the U.S. The government approves applications for refuge if a person can prove that he or she has suffered fear or persecution in his or her home country due to the individual’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion. The individual is not only allowed to seek asylum for him or herself, but also for a spouse and any children under the age of 21 who are also unmarried.

Working as an Asylee

Once a person is granted asylum, that person can begin working legally in the United States without penalty. If 150 days have passed since the person applied for refuge status and no decision on the person’s application has been made, the individual seeking asylum can apply for Employment Authorization Documents, which would allow the refuge seeker to work before a final decision on his or her application is made.

It should be noted that the 150 day requirement assumes that any delays in application processing were not made by the applicant him or herself, as would be the case if an applicant asked for any extensions. A person must have an application for refuge pending in order to apply for Employment Authorization Documents.

After Asylum

An individual is able to apply for a green card, which is permanent resident status, after one year as an asylee.

Getting Legal Advice

Anyone who is in a position where refuge has to be considered will no doubt have some fears and doubts about their futures. By speaking with an experienced immigration attorney, seekers of asylum can have all of their questions answered and, if the attorney thinks the person is a good candidate for asylum, can help the person through the entire application process.

The attorney can help with all the necessary paperwork, including any paperwork necessary to help the applicant’s family gain asylum, and can also help with getting Employment Authorization Documents if the individual intends on working while in the U.S. After a year in the United States on refuge status, the attorney can also help the person apply for a green card to become a lawful permanent resident.