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Asylum

Asylum is a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future on account of:

  • Race,
  • Religion,
  • Nationality,
  • Membership in a particular social group, and/or
  • Political opinion.

An individual generally must apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States.


There are two primary ways in which a person may apply for asylum in the United States: the affirmative process and the defensive process. Asylum seekers who arrive at a U.S. port of entry or enter the United States without inspection generally must apply through the defensive asylum process. Both processes require the asylum seeker to be physically present in the United States.


Asylees applicants may apply for a green card one year after being granted asylum. Once the individual becomes a permanent resident, he or she must wait four years to apply for citizenship.