Who is Eligible to Apply?
Asylum status may be granted to people who are arriving in or already physically present in the United States. To apply for asylum in the United States, you may ask for asylum at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport, or border crossing), or file an Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, at the appropriate Service Center within one year of your arrival in the United States. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status, whether you are in the United States legally or illegally.
You must apply for asylum within one year of your last arrival in the United States, but you may apply for asylum later than one year if there are changed circumstances that materially affect your eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances directly related to your failure to file within one year. These may include certain changes in the conditions in your country, certain changes in your own circumstances, and certain other events. For a non-exhaustive list of circumstances that may be considered changed or extraordinary circumstances, see 8 CFR § 208.4. You must apply for asylum within a reasonable time given those circumstances.
You will be barred from applying for asylum if you previously applied for asylum and were denied by the Immigration Judge or Board of Immigration Appeals, unless you demonstrate that there are changed circumstances which materially affect your eligibility for asylum. You will also be barred if you could be removed to a safe third country pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement.
Refugee status may be granted to a person who has fled his home country but is outside the United States at the time of his application.You must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee.
USRAP Consultations and Worldwide Processing Priorities" : Annually, processing priorities (for definition see the "Glossary" link to the right) are established to determine which of the world's refugees are of special humanitarian concern to the United States. Fulfilling a processing priority enables a refugee applicant the opportunity to interview with a USCIS officer, but does not guarantee acceptance.
The priorities currently in use are:
- Priority 1: Cases that are identified and referred to the program by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a United States Embassy, or a designated non-governmental organization (NGO).
- Priority 2: Groups of special humanitarian concern identified by the U.S. refugee program.
- Priority 3: Family reunification cases (spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of persons lawfully admitted to the United States as refugees or asylees or permanent residents (green card holders) or U.S. citizens who previously had refugee or asylum status). For information on the current nationalities eligible for Priority 3 processing, see the "U.S. Department of State" link to the right.
Refugees must generally be outside their country of origin, but the US can process some individuals in their home countries if authorized by the President.
If you receive a referral, you will receive help filling out your application and then be interviewed abroad by a USCIS officer who will determine whether you are eligible for refugee resettlement. For more information about eligibility, see the "Refugee Eligibility Determination" link to the right.
Your case may include your spouse, child (unmarried and under 21 years of age), and in some limited circumstances, other family members. If your case is referred to the USRAP, you will receive help filling out your paperwork. You will be interviewed abroad by a USCIS officer who will determine whether you are a refugee.
There is no fee to apply for refugee status. The information you provide will not be shared with your home country.