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Green Cards for Asylum Applicants

Can I request a green card if I am an asylum applicant or an asylee? Do I need a green card if I am already an asylee?

Refugees often ask these two questions when they seek asylum in the United States. The answers to these questions are quite simple. We will discuss all the aspects of applying for a Permanent Resident Card (a green card) for asylees and asylum seekers.

I have not received asylum. Can I apply for a green card?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will reject your application for a green card if your application for asylum is pending. Asylum seekers are not even allowed to work unless 150 days passed since they filed their application for asylum, and USCIS had not issued any decision on their application.

But what can you do to obtain a green card? If you still want to get a green card, you can choose one of the three ways:

  • Get a green card through work.

If you find an employer who can hire you, then you will be able to get a green card. In this case, the most paperwork will be done by your employer. Once USCIS approves the petition of your employer, you may file Form I-485 and request a green card.

  • Get a green card through marriage.

Marriage seems easier than the previous method for obtaining a green card. But still, you have to do a lot of paperwork yourself like filing several application forms to USCIS and attending an interview.

  • Get a green card through a lottery.

The official name of the lottery is Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery. The lottery is held each year, and you must register to participate. Understandably, there is no guarantee that you will get a green card in this case.

We have discussed the main information that you should know if you want to receive a green card as an asylum seeker. In the following section, we will talk about how to obtain a green for the person who was granted asylum.

I was already granted asylum. Can I apply for a green card now?

Yes, you are allowed to apply for a Permanent Resident Card if you were granted asylum. But there are several stipulations mentioned in the U.S. laws regarding how asylees can acquire a green card.

  • You have been physically located on the U.S. territory during at least a year after you were granted asylum.

Put simply, once you receive asylum, you must wait for a year before you can apply for adjustment of status. (Adjustment of Status is the official process how applicants apply for a green card when they are already located in the U.S.)

  • You must file Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with USCIS.

This form is also called Form I-485; to apply this form, you must also be physically located on the U.S. territory.

  • You are still a refugee.

There are several cases when asylees or asylum seekers are not considered refugees anymore. If the conditions in your home country are safe, USCIS will try to send you back to your country even if you were already granted asylum.

  • You have not settled in any other country.

Basically, USCIS prohibits applicants to request the adjustment of status (read: green card) if they are living in another country. For example, if you have a stable job in Canada, and you are an asylee in the U.S., then USCIS may deny your green card application.

  • You have not committed any serious crime or felony.

For asylees who were granted asylum through derivation (through parents), USCIS specifies the same eligibility requirements for a green card. In other words, if you are a spouse or a child of a refugee, and you have been living in the U.S. for a year, you do qualify for a green card. Your spouse (or parent) must also be considered a refugee at the time of filing.

We want to mention one more aspect of requiring a green card for asylum seekers. Do you really need a green card once you were granted asylum? Our recommendation is to apply for a green card anyway if you meet the eligibility requirements.

The problem with asylee status is that it can change, and USCIS may remove you from the United States. If you can return to your home country, then your right to asylum is terminated. But if you have a green card, you can permanently stay in the U.S. for as long as ten years. And if you have been living in the U.S. as a green card bearer for five years, then you become eligible for U.S. citizenship. Once you become a U.S. citizen or obtain a green card, USCIS will not be able to remove your from the United States.

To sum up, if you were granted asylum and consider applying for a green card, first verify if you are eligible. And then apply for a green card. And remember that you can always count on great immigration lawyers who can help you throughout the asylum process and green card application.