Asylum may be granted to people who are already in the United States and are unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, and membership to a particular social group or political opinion. If an applicant is granted asylum, he or she will be allowed to live and work in the United States. The applicant will also be able to apply for lawful permanent resident status one year after he or she is granted asylum. To be eligible for asylum in the United States, one must ask for asylum at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport or border crossing), or file an application within one year of arrival in the United States; however, there is an exception in rare circumstances when an applicant may request asylum later than one year of arrival in the US. Eligibility for asylum is based on information provided on the application and during an interview with an Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge. If an applicant does not qualify for asylum, but fears being tortured upon returning to their homeland, they can apply for consideration under the Convention Against Torture.

Asylum status and refugee status differ only in the place where a person asks for the status. Asylum is asked for in the United States; refugee status is asked for outside of the United States. However, all people who are granted asylum must meet the definition of a refugee. Refugee status may be granted to people who meet the definition of a refugee, but are outside of the United States and therefore ineligible for asylum. Determination of refugee status for admission to the United States is governed by the same legal principles and standards as asylum, but unlike asylum, there is a strict limit on the number of people that can be accepted into the United States as refugees. Each year, the United States government sets a cap for the number of refugees it will accept from each continent. The United States has also established a tiered system of “refugee processing priorities”, indicating specific countries and circumstances that are regarded as high priority under United States refugee law.

Cancellation of Removal

Cancellation of removal is an immigration remedy under which someone can apply for permanent residence in exceptional cases. There are three requirements to win cancellation of removal:

  • the applicant must have been present in the United States for ten continuous years;
  • the applicant must be a person of good moral character; and
  • the applicant must have a U.S. citizen or legal resident spouse, parent or child who would suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship if the applicant were deported.
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