By: Shah Peerally Esq.
Seeking an Asylum or refugee status- what you should know?

Lines of a poem posted inside the Statue of Liberty goes- “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,”

The United States has a long history, of people who have come here seeking asylum. Perhaps more so because it is considered symbol of peace, a safe harbor for those who have been persecuted for political or religious reasons. It is an oft misunderstood notion that it is a crime to enter the United States with false documents when a person is seeking asylum, a civil offense, yet one perhaps that is abused. Like many other countries the United States, pledges to offer asylum to those who are victims of any form of persecution whether political or religious.

Asylum is granted to someone who is already in the United States and who is unwilling or even unable to leave the country for fear of prosecution either under religious, nationality, political, race or any such grounds. Often confusion however stems from the nature of what the so called ‘fear’ maybe and how it can be proven, especially if a person claims that the persecution maybe because of a membership in any particular group.

In this regard, two terms that are often confused are asylee status and refugee status. Thought both are closely connected, and differ only in terms of where a person asks for the status. An asylee status is asked for by those who are already in the inside the US while the refugee status, is asked for those outside the US.

Under what grounds can you apply for an Asylum or seek a refugee status-

– The person’s fear of the persecution as mentioned is ‘well-founded’ and can be proved.
– The asylum is applied for within 1 year of entering the US. Sometimes though there have been exceptions like changed conditions within the country or under such other extraordinary circumstances.
– A person cannot apply for asylum or refugee status if it can be proved that they may be a danger to the society. This excludes those who have committed ‘serious crimes’.
– The persecution fear is at least one of these conditions- religion, belonging to a social group, political opinion, race and nationality.
– The person cannot or will not find protection in their own country
– If the person runs the risk of experiencing persecution in the future if they were returned without being provided with asylum or refugee status.

The process of application for Asylum or Refugee Status

Usually, an asylum status must be applied for within one year mentioned, there is a 1 year of entering the US. On application for asylum, an interview is scheduled with an asylum officer within 3-6 weeks of applying. A decision is usually granted within 2 weeks of the interview. Those cases which are heard before an asylum officer are called ‘affirmative asylum’ cases. If the case is referred to the immigration judge, the asylee can now plead their asylum claim before the judge itself. The case will be given timing for the hearing, based on the judge’s calendar. Those cases which are heard before a judge are called “defensive asylum” cases.

The benefits of an Asylum or Refugee Status

If and when your asylum application is approved, you are free to seek employment in the US. The asylee or refugee can apply to bring along immediate relatives to the US who may also receive employment authorization over a period of time. An asylee or refugee status can grant a person the liberty to independently file for a green card through adjustment of status. This is possible if the person is physically present in the US for one year since the status has been granted. The refugees are required to adjust status.

In case the application for asylum is pending for 150 days or more, the applicant may apply for work authorization (EAD) in the interim period and receive it within 180 days from the time the asylum application has been sent.


How can an Attorney’s help you in making an Affirmative or Defensive Asylum Application?

The process of obtaining an asylum is a comprehensive and detailed one. Under the circumstances, it may not always be possible for a person to single handedly handle the application for asylum and also know of the ways that might help in making it an approved case. This is more so because the legal angles required here are best understood by an attorney as one mistake at this critical juncture might make it difficult for your application to be well reviewed. The statutory and precedential case law is very nuanced, and as such a qualified attorney is probably your best bet in such a case. A good attorney will not only be able to properly classify the applicant, but will also make sure to present a strong case on your behalf.


In the case of a defensive asylum, in which the applicant is in removal proceedings, it is absolutely important that the applicant should have a well experienced attorney who can present the case strongly before an immigration judge. In such cases, good experience and skillful powers of an attorney in presenting asylum case before immigration court may actually make or break your case! It is here that you could actually use the skilled services of the Shah Peerally Law Group, which has years of experience in handling such casesand can give you extremely important advice regarding your case.

Contact Us
If you are in a difficult situation and want to apply for asylum and discuss your alternatives with an experienced immigration lawyer, do call the Shah Peerally Law Group, for eel free to contact us by email – or call us at 510-742-5887.