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It can be all too easy to take for granted the relative security and safety that is assumed as the status quo of day-to-day life in this country. That security and safety is the reason why so many people the world over attempt to make their way to these shores when fleeing persecution.
The USCIS lists five protected categories that constitute a person’s inalienable identity. The persecution, or the reasonable fear of persecution, of a person based on any of these characteristics is the standard for determining if an asylum seeker has a case:
Membership in a particular social group
An asylum seeker has one year, from the time they first arrive in the United States, to apply for asylum status.
PROCESS FOR APPLYING FOR ASYLUM
It is possible for an individual to apply for Asylum entirely independent of their immigration status. While factors such as inadmissibility and entry inspection play a role in determining whether to grant someone asylum, none of that prevents the filing of Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. The only requirements for filing are being physically present in the United States, and not being a United States citizen. There is no fee associated with this form.
Before filing the form, an applicant should first determine if they have an assigned Alien Number (‘A-number’). This is a tracking number, eight or nine digits long, that should beprovided in every correspondence issued by DHS or the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) so long as it has been assigned.
This can be confirmed by calling the toll-free EOIR hotline at (800) 898-7180, or by checking the Automated Case Information system at portal.eoir.justice.gov/InfoSystem. You should be able to determine if a number is assigned to you through either one of these options.
If you DO have an A-number, then you must file your Form I-589 with the EOIR, at the location indicated by the information portal being used. Alternatively, the correct filing location can be determined by referencing the chart located at www.justice.gov/eoir/eoir-immigration-court-listing.
If you DO NOT have an A-number, or if the number you have does not match what the system says it is, you must file your Form I-589 with USCIS, at the location indicated on the chart found at Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal | USCIS.
Once filed, the submission status of the case can be tracked through the USCIS Case Status Online (CSOL) portal. If the CSOL portal does not show a case status, or if it indicates that your case has not been sent to EOIR for processing, you should contact the Asylum Office with jurisdiction over your Form I-589 immediately, either in writing or in person.
The best way to avoid a situation like that is to contact the experts at Rijal Law Firm first and foremost, of course. There are even provisions for one of our attorneys to appear alongside you for the asylum interview from a remote location. There is a world of difference between facing a critical interview with a USCIS agent on your own, and stepping into one after being prepped and coached by one of our attorneys, with your attorney right there at your side.
One particularly important thing to keep in mind is that once the I-589 Form is submitted, any change in address must be reported to USCIS within 10 days of the move, using Form AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address Card. If a Notice to Appear (NTA) has already been issued by the EOIR, and there is a chance in address, then it is necessary to file Form EOIR-33/IC, Alien’s Change of Address Form/Immigration Court with the EOIR within FIVE days of the change. Failure to respond appropriately to these requirements runs the very real and immediate risk of having the entire application rejected. Don’t take the risk – speak with a qualified immigration expert on how best to proceed if at all possible. Rijal Law Firm. We are the qualified immigration expert.
BENEFITS TO SECURING ASYLUM
Aside from the obvious benefit of securing a legal immigration status, there are a number of other options to consider during this process:
Permission to Work: a chance to earn an honest living is part of the foundation of the American ideal, and that chance is available to asylum seekers … but not immediately! It is necessary to first wait one calendar year (365 days) from the initial filing of the application before submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Because of this one-year wait period, many asylum seekers struggle to support themselves while waiting for an adjudication.
Any applicant intending to pursue an Employment Authorization process should be warned that any number of minor procedural errors can result in the authorization being rejected, even after waiting the entire year. Some of those mistakes include:
Delaying an adjudication by filing or requesting additional paperwork for the application;
Failing to appear, failing to effectively receive a notice (by moving and not notifying the proper authority, for example), or failing to properly acknowledge the terms of a decision;
Requesting to provide additional evidence for an interview, or requesting an extension to submit additional evidence, less than 14 days before the interview date, and causing a delay in the asylum application adjudication;
Failing to appear for an asylum interview, unless USCIS excuses you;
Failing to appear for scheduled biometrics collection for the asylum application, unless USCIS excuses you;
Requesting to reschedule an interview for a later date;
Requesting to transfer a case to a new asylum office or interview location, including when the transfer is for a new address;
Failing to use a USCIS contract interpreter, or not providing a competent interpreter at an interview; or
Failing to comply with any other request needed to determine asylum eligibility.
Additionally, crimes of a serious or felonious nature, committed either in the United States or outside of US borders, can nullify an EAD request
It should be obvious how cautious any applicant must be to succeed in this effort. Without a paycheck, life in the US can sometimes seem impossible. We strongly urge anyone preparing to pursue as asylum request to contact a qualified legal professional for a consultation. Keep in mind that upon being granted asylum status, work authorization is automatically provided. And a failure to secure asylum status means that any work authorization already approved is automatically voided.
Bringing your Family with You: if asylum is granted, it is possible to bring a spouse and any unmarried children under 21 years of age into the country, by filing Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. This must be filed within two years of being granted asylum, unless there is a compelling humanitarian reason as to why it could not be done within the timeframe.
Path to Lawful Permanent Resident status: After being granted asylum, there is a one-year wait period in effect before being able to file for a Green Card. Once that elapses, the asylum beneficiary and any dependents become eligible to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Take care to note that each person applying for a Green Card must submit a separate Form I-485, and all associated fees must be paid for each person as well.
For more information on becoming a lawful permanent resident in the United States, please contact us at Rijal Law Firm.
REFUGEE STATUS:It is important to understand the difference between an Asylum Seeker and a Refugee.
According to the USCIS, a refugee is a person who:
Is located outside of the United States
Is of special humanitarian concern to the United States
Demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group
Is not firmly resettled in another country
Is admissible to the United States
Because of the way this condition is defined, there is no application process for refugee status. Instead, people who may qualify as refugees are referred to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), usually by a partner agency.
AGENCIES AND ORGANIZATIONS
The number of groups and entities involved in the refugee process is quite frankly staggering. This complexity speaks to the overwhelming difficulty faced by refugee populations, as well as to the amount of effort it takes to identify and process those who qualify under both federal and international guidelines. Global crises necessitate global coordination, and there are literally thousands upon thousands dedicated civil servants engaged in the multilateral endeavor needed to transplant stateless and persecuted peoples. If it looks messy, that’s because it is.
USCIS provides a helpful, mostly complete list of the major players :
Department of State/Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) – PRM has overall USRAP management responsibility overseas and has lead in proposing admissions ceilings and processing priorities.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – UNHCR refers cases to the USRAP for resettlement and provides important information with regard to the worldwide refugee situation.
Resettlement Support Centers (RSC) – Under cooperative agreement with the Department of State, RSCs consist of international organizations or non-governmental organizations that carry out administrative and processing functions, such as file preparation and storage, data collection and out-processing activities.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – Within DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has responsibility for adjudicating applications for refugee status and reviewing case decisions; the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) screens arriving refugees for admission at the port of entry.
Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) – ORR administers domestic resettlement benefits for arriving refugees.
International Organization for Migration (IOM) – Department of State contractors serve primarily as the travel agent for the USRAP and the OPE in certain locations.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) – Provide resettlement assistance and services to arriving refugee
As noted, there is no application process for refugee status, and as such there is not much role for legal counsel in that regard. The review and settlement portions of being classified as a refugee, and then coming to America, are all handled by government agencies. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, for example, coordinates with incoming refugees and state and local governments to find housing, secure healthcare access, and provide financial assistance to those who most desperately need it. More information about these efforts can be found at the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) | The Administration for Children and Families (hhs.gov) website.
Once a refugee is settled, there are often significant legal hurdles and barriers to deal with. That’s where we can help. Bringing Family Stateside: once a refugee is allowed entry into the United States, a two-year clock starts. Within that timeframe, it is possible to bring a spouse, and any unmarried children under 21, into the country, by filing Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. There are specific requirements and conditions relevant to family members of Refugees and Asylees, and so it at this point that a newly arrived refuge may strongly consider the option to retain an attorney with the necessary experience in this field.
There is also an option to file an Affidavit of Relationship outside of the two-year window, or for parents who would not qualify under Form I-730. This approach, however, is tightly constrained by the limited allocations available for these admissions. Detailed information on these allocations, the criteria for entry, and various other details such as associated cost and geographic priority can all be found at Report to Congress on Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021 – United States Department of State.
Working in the United States: Upon being admitted as a refugee, the entrants Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record will be stamped as ‘Refugee Admission’, and a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization will be automatically submitted on the refugee’s behalf. The entrant should be advised that they have the authorization to work immediately – even though the EAD takes some time to process, the stamped I-94 can be produced as authorization for work. If any problems develop in proving the work authorization, it can usually be cleared up quickly. We invite anyone with questions about working under a refugee status to contact us.
Green Card for Refugees: after being admitted as a refugee, a waiting period of one year must pass, at which point the entrant is required to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This can be a confusing process, as Bars to Adjustment (that is, procedural problems that would otherwise prevent an Adjustment of Status from being considered) are generally deemed to be non-enforceable for someone with refugee status. But they can still cause problems, depending on the circumstances. Even more confusing, many Grounds of Inadmissibility, as defined in §1182. Inadmissible aliens , are not in fact enforceable per USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 7, Chapter 3. While the pertinent authorities are generally very accommodating of refugee status Green Card applications, paperwork errors and incorrect interpretations of the controlling statutes and guidelines are always a possibility. Should complications arise in filing for the Green Card for Refugees, remember that the attorneys at Rijal Law Firm will get it resolved without further delay.
Travel outside the US: An individual with refugee status is allowed to travel outside of US borders in most cases, but specific considerations must be made. Before any travel abroad, it is necessary to file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Sound simple enough?
USCIS provides the following checklist for reference before filing Form I-131 and leaving the country :
For a refugee travel document:
A copy of an official photo identity document;
Proof of refugee or asylee status;
A statement explaining the reason for a “yes” response to any question in Part 6; and If outside the United States, submit:
Two identical color passport-style photographs of yourself taken within 30 days of filing this application;
Evidence of your last date of departure from the United States, if available (such as airline tickets, boarding passes, etc.);
Fee receipt as proof you have paid the applicable filing fee(s) for the application at the USCIS Office or U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your location abroad; and
A statement explaining:
The purpose of your trip outside the United States. Include documentary evidence to support your reasons for departure from the United States, if available;
The reason you departed the United States without first applying for a refugee travel document;
A description of where you have traveled since your departure from the United States;
Your activities while outside the United States; and
An explanation of whether you intended to abandon your refugee or asylum status at the time you left the United States.
For a reentry permit:
A copy of an official photo identity document;
Evidence that you are a lawful permanent resident:
1. A copy of the front and back of your Permanent Resident Card (also known as a Green Card or a Form I-551);
2. A copy of the biographic pages of your passport and a copy of the visa page showing your initial admission as a lawful permanent resident;
3. A copy of the Form I-797, Notice of Action, approval notice of your application to replace your Permanent Resident Card (also known as a Green Card or a Form I-551); or
4. Temporary evidence of lawful permanent resident status; and
5. Certified English translations of non-English documents (if applicable).
For an advance parole document for individuals who are currently in the United States:
A copy of an official photo identity document;
Two identical passport-style photographs of yourself taken within 30 days of the filing of this application;
A copy of any document showing your current status in the United States;
Evidence that your trip is for educational, employment, or humanitarian purposes;
An explanation or other evidence showing the circumstances that warrant issuance of an advance parole document;
A copy of a USCIS receipt as evidence that you filed the adjustment application, if you are an applicant for adjustment of status; and
A copy of the U.S. consular appointment letter, if you are traveling to Canada to apply for an immigrant visa.
For advance parole for someone outside the United States (for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit):
A copy of a photo identity document for beneficiary, petitioner, and sponsor;
A copy of the beneficiary’s passport identity page;
A description of the urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reason, including documentation of a need for expedited handling, and the length of time for which the beneficiary needs parole;
A completed Form I-134 with appropriate documentation as described in the form instructions;
A statement explaining why the beneficiary cannot obtain a U.S. visa (if applicable);
A statement explaining why the beneficiary cannot obtain a waiver of inadmissibility (if applicable); and
A copy of any decision on immigrant/nonimmigrant applications or petitions.
Consult an immigration expert before traveling abroad on a refugee immigration status. Or any other immigration status, for that matter. We are here to ensure your re-admission into the United States is straightforward and stress-free.,