The U.S. government offers humanitarian assistance to individuals who seek shelter from oppression, and perhaps the most well known programs of this type are the refugee and asylum programs. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) define a refugee as someone who is outside of his homeland, and has been persecuted in his homeland or has a well-founded fear of future persecution there on account of

Membership in a particular social group
Political opinion

Refugee. Under United States law, a refugee is any person who is outside of such person’s country or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. This person has not firmly resettled in another country and is admissible to the United States.

Asylee. Asylum status is a form of protection available to a person who has been persecuted in his homeland or has a well-founded fear of future persecution there on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.  Asylum protects an individual from removal to a country of feared persecution. An applicant must establish that the government is either involved in the persecution, or unable to control the conduct of private actors. You may apply for asylum in the United States or at a port of entree regardless of your country of origin or your current immigration status.

There are two ways that an applicant can obtain asylum in the United States- affirmative and defensive. For asylum through the affirmative process, the applicant must be physically present in the United States. It does not matter how he arrived.

The applicant generally must apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USICS) within one year (1) of the date of his last arrival in the United States, unless he can show extenuating circumstances that delayed filing.

Months may pass before the applicant may be called for an interview at the asylum office. If your asylum application is approved by an asylum officer, you are allowed to receive social security number and card, live and work in the US for as long as you remain in asylum status. Asylee can also apply for certain benefits.

If the asylum officer rejects the asylum application and the applicant does not have legal immigration status, USCIS will issue a Form I-862, Notice to Appear, and refer the case to an immigration court for removal proceedings. Only in the removal proceedings before the immigration court can the applicant be denied asylum. If such denial is made, the alien will be ordered removed from the U.S. Of course, an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) can be made to such a determination.

However, asylum may be terminated if you no longer have a well-founded fear of persecution because of a fundamental change in circumstances, you have obtained protection from another country, or you have committed certain crimes or engaged in other activity that makes you ineligible to retain asylum status in the United States.

If you remain in the U.S. for one (1) year, you are eligible to apply for permanent residency (a green card).

Asylee granted waiver under INA $212(e) because of persecution is barred from adjustment of status if she worked without permission or was out-of-status before asylum granted.

A defensive application for asylum is when a refugee requests asylum as protection against removal from the U.S. Only refugees that are in removal proceedings in an immigration court can apply for defensive asylum. A judge will hear arguments from the government and from the petitioner before making a ruling. Either side can appeal the judge’s decision.