This guide explains why a foreign national should consider asylum, as opposed to other types of immigration benefits.
Legal Permanent Residency
The most important reason a foreigner wants to win an asylum case is that she receives a green card. When the asylum case is approved -- either before U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services ("Immigration") or before an Immigration Judge - the foreign national becomes an asylee. ONE year after becoming an asylee, she may apply for legal permanent residency.
If the residency application is approved, she receives an identification known as a green card. Legal Permanent Residency gives foreigners a lawful basis both to live and to work in the United States. Green card holders (lawful permanent residents) are also eligible for more government assistance programs, including, but not limited to, the following:
o lower tuition rate at state run colleges or universities,
o eligibility for certain loans, and
o Social Security benefits.
Also, legal permanent residents can apply for citizenship after five years. This is important because only a U.S. citizen who is over 21 years of age can sponsor a parent for a green card.
An asylum applicant can file for work authorization 150 days after the asylum application is submitted to the Citizenship and Immigration Service. Filing the asylum application triggers a countdown referred to as "the asylum clock." Immigration will not issue a work permit until 180 days have passed on the asylum clock.
To avoid granting work permits to undeserving applicants, if the case is denied before the 180 days, the work permit is not issued.
If the case is denied, foreign nationals who are not in status may have their cases referred to the Immigration Court.
Although an asylum applicant can receive work authorization while the case is pending in Immigration Court, certain activities will stop the clock and as a result can impact when the work permit is issued.
For instance, if a foreign national applies for asylum before an Immigration Judge, but then requests additional time to find an attorney, the asylum clock stops ticking. By requesting additional time, the foreign nationals are forced to wait before being eligible to apply for work authorization.
An experienced immigration attorney will explain what actions the applicants should avoid so that they may be eligible for work authorization as quickly as possible.
An asylee is also eligible to apply for a driver's license. In Florida, even asylum applicants may obtain a driver's license. The requirements vary by state and are usually available on the website of the Division of Motor Vehicles.
Other Benefits for Asylees
Refugee Travel Document. Asylees can travel abroad with a Refugee Travel Document, which is issued by the United States. In that way, they do not need to rely on the government of their homeland - which may not be willing to assist -- to issue a passport. In addition, persons granted asylum can petition for either their spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21. This benefit applies to spouses or children outside the United States who will then come to receive a legal permanent stay in the United States.
Of course, asylees should NOT travel to their home country.
Financial Assistance is available through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). ORR funds and administers programs to help refugees, asylees and other special populations restart their lives in the United States. This help includes short-term cash and medical assistance.
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