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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, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. If you are granted asylum, you will be allowed to live and work in the United States. You also will be able to apply for permanent resident status one year after you are granted asylum.

Asylum status and refugee status are closely related. They 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.

The Refugee Act of 1980 regulates U.S. asylum policy as well as governing refugee procedures. The Act, for the first time, established a statutory basis for granting asylum in the United States consistent with the 1967 United Nations Protocol on Refugees.

Adjustments to Permanent Residency

No Limits are set on the number of individuals who may be granted asylum in the United States. Under immigration law, approved asylums must reside in the United States for 1 year following their approval in order to be eligible to apply for adjustment to lawful permanent resident status. One year of the asylee’s residence prior to adjustment is counted toward the naturalization residency requirement. Although asylee adjustments are exempt from the worldwide annual limitation on immigrants, the law places a ceiling on the number of asylees who may adjust to permanent residency status each year.

The Immigration Act of 1990 increased the ceiling from 5,000 to 10,000 per year, effective for fiscal year 1991. It also waived the annual ceiling beginning in fiscal year 1991 for those asylees who had met the required 1-year waiting period and filed for adjustment of status on or before June 1, 1990.




To be eligible for asylum in the United States, you must

  • must ask for asylum at the port-of-entry (airport, seaport or border crossing), or

  • file an application within one year of your arrival in the United States.

  • You may ask later than one year if the conditions in your country have changed or if your personal circumstances have changed within the past year prior to your asking for asylum, and those changes of circumstances affected your eligibility for asylum.

  • You may also be excused from the one-year deadline if extraordinary circumstance  prevented you from filing within the one-year period after your arrival, so long as you apply within a reasonable time given those circumstances.


Applicants for refugee or asylum status must demonstrate that they were persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, and must meet other legal criteria. MAS Immigrant Justice Center assists clients in applying for political asylum, permanent residency, citizenship, and employment authorization, as well as reunifying families separated by war and conflict.


Permission to Work in the United States

You cannot apply for permission to work (employment authorization) in the United States at the same time you apply for asylum.

You may apply for employment authorization if:

  • 150 days have passed since you filed your complete asylum application, excluding any delays caused by you (such as a request to reschedule your interview) AND

  • No decision has been made on your application


If you are granted asylum you may work immediately. Some asylees choose to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for convenience or identification purposes, but an EAD is not necessary to work if you are an asylee.

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