Alice Vacek Aranda
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Are you eligible for asylum in the United States?

The word "immigration" is a buzzword you will hear all the American politicians using, but one that gets far less mention is "asylum." What actually is asylum, and who is eligible to seek it in the United States?

You may be eligible to seek asylum in our country if you need protection from persecution or if you are in fear of being persecuted because of the following:

-- Nationality

-- Religion

-- Race

-- Political views

-- Being a member of a specific social group

If you are already in this country, you could get legal permission to remain here by filing for asylum, using Form I-589. Also known as "Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal," this must be filed within a year of arriving in the United States. Applying for asylum is free.

For those with families, children and spouses already in the country can be included on an application when filing, or subsequently, until a determination is made regarding your application. Children must be 20 or younger and not married in order to be included on their parent's application.

You are not permitted to simultaneously file for asylum and permission to legally work in the United States. You can only apply to work here legally if the following qualifications are met:

-- No determination has been made on your asylum application.

-- Since the filing of the application for asylum, 150 days have elapsed, with the exclusion of delays attributed to you, such as requests for rescheduled interviews.

Once asylum is granted, you can begin to work right away. While it is not mandatory for asylees to seek Employment Authorization Documents, some may find that getting EADs as ID is convenient.

If an individual is granted asylum and he or she wishes to bring children and a spouse to America from another country, that person must file Form I-730, the Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. These petitions have to be filed in the two-year period after the individual is granted asylum. However, exceptions may be made for humanitarian reasons. There are no filing fees for this application.

Once granted asylum, asylees may apply for permanent residency, informally known as a "green card," after they have been an asylee for a year. The process can be complex, and legal help is available to guide you through the process.

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Asylum," accessed April 07, 2016

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