Applying for asylum in the United States

Many immigrants come to the Charlotte area to pursue a job or college degree, or to live with their families. Others come here to escape persecution, violence or instability in their country of origin.

The United States offers asylum, or the right to live and work in this country, to individuals and families who have experienced persecution in another country, or have a well-founded fear of future persecution. To qualify for asylum, the applicant’s actual or feared persecution must be based on one or more of the following:

  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Political opinion
  • Membership in a social group

There are two processes for seeking asylum: defensive asylum and affirmative asylum. People who apply for defensive asylum are in removal proceedings and face possible deportation. They are often undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. to escape things like war, genocide, or economic collapse in their country of origin. They may have presented themselves to agents at the U.S. border and be subject to expedited deportation proceedings. Affirmative asylum is the process for foreign nationals who are not in deportation proceedings, but whose visa may be expiring soon.

While your asylum application is pending

Applying for asylum puts a halt to the deportation process. The process can be slow; it can be years before you get a hearing or interview about your case. You may be able to live in the U.S. while your case is pending, though immigration authorities sometimes detain applicants while their case is pending. If you are not detained and 150 days have passed since you applied for asylum, you may apply for the right to work in the U.S.

You don’t have to seek asylum without help

Seeking asylum is a long, complicated process. To avoid mistakes on your application that could separate you from your family, consider asking an immigration attorney for help.

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