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Those who flee their country in fear that their lives or freedom is at risk may be eligible for asylum. Asylum has two basic requirements. First, asylum applicants must establish that they fear persecution in their home country. Second, applicants must prove that they would be persecuted on account of at least one of five protected grounds: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group.
Noncitizens who are encountered by, or present themselves to, a U.S. official at a port of entry or near the border are subject to expedited removal, an accelerated process which authorizes DHS to perform rapid deportations of certain individuals.
To ensure that the United States does not violate international and domestic laws by returning individuals to countries where their life or liberty may be at risk, the credible fear and reasonable fear screening processes are available to asylum seekers in expedited removal processes.
Individuals who are placed in expedited removal proceedings and who tell a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official that they fear persecution, torture, or returning to their country or that they wish to apply for asylum should be referred for a credible fear screening interview conducted by an asylum officer.
If the asylum officer determines that the asylum seeker has a credible fear of persecution or torture, it means that the person has proven that he or she has a “significant possibility” of establishing eligibility for asylum or other protection under the Convention Against Torture. The individual will then be referred to immigration court to proceed with the defensive asylum application process.
An asylee—or a person granted asylum—is protected from being returned to his or her home country, is authorized to work in the United States, may apply for a Social Security card, may request permission to travel overseas, and can petition to bring family members to the United States. Asylees may also be eligible certain benefits, such as Medicaid or Refugee Medical Assistance.
After one year, an asylee may apply for lawful permanent resident status (i.e., a green card). Once the individual becomes a permanent resident, he or she must wait four years to apply for citizenship.
An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is a work permit, issued in the form of a small card, that proves an individual’s right to work in the U.S. for a specific period of time. All U.S. employers are required by law to ensure that employees, regardless of citizenship or national origin, can work in the United States.
In order to receive an EAD, you must either win your asylum case—which may take anywhere from months to years—or be waiting 180 days or more without an initial decision on your asylum application. After 150 days you are deemed eligible to apply, after which USCIS must process your application within 30 days. Below, we explain the process in both scenarios.
You may apply for an EAD if you’ve successfully filed Form I-589 and 150 days have passed since your application and a decision has not yet been reached. At this stage, USCIS is obligated to process your application for an EAD within 30 days.
For asylum applicants who are filing Form I-765 for the first time, there is currently no filing fee. However, if you’re an asylum applicant and applying to renew your work permit, then you may have to pay the filing fee of $410. This amount can be paid by personal check, cashier’s check, credit card, and money gram.
The processing time for EAD applications for asylum applicants varies. In most cases, an applicant may expect a notification of a decision regarding the work permit application within 30 days after USCIS has received the application. If 30 days has passed and you haven’t received a decision yet, then you may request for an interim EAD at a local USCIS office.
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