How to Apply for Permanent Residence (a Green Card) as an Asylee

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If you have lived in the U.S. for one year since your grant of asylum, you can apply for a green card and adjust” your status to a “lawful permanent resident” (LPR). Your spouse and children who obtained a derivative grant of asylum through you can also apply for their green cards at this time.

The one-year period is measured from the date when you got your final approval of asylum (for example, when an immigration judge signed the order granting you asylum or when your Form I-94 was issued if you were granted asylum after a credibility interview at the border). Here, you will find guidance on why it is important to apply for permanent residence as soon as possible and what is needed for a successful application.

It Is in Your Best Interest to Apply for a Green Card

Although you are not required to apply for LPR status to continue to live and work in the United States, it is in your interest to apply for a green card as soon as you become eligible. Doing so will allow you to obtain benefits that you cannot get as an asylee. For example, you must first obtain LPR status if you intend to become a naturalized U.S. citizen in the future.

Moreover, your asylee status (and your right to remain in the U.S.) might be revoked (taken away by the U.S. government) if:

  • country conditions change in your home country, so that you can safely return there (a change of ruling political party, for example), or
  • you no longer qualify as an asylee (for example, your religious or political opinions have changed, so you would not be persecuted if you returned to the country from which you had claimed fear of persecution).

You Must Continue to Qualify as an Asylee

When you apply for your green card, you must continue to meet the definition of an asylee (or continue to be the spouse or child of such asylee). U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) might question whether you are still an asylee in certain circumstances. That is, you must fear persecution from your home country on account of a protected ground. For a detailed discussion, see “Asylum or Refugee Status: Who Is Eligible?”.

You Must Continue to Be Admissible to the United States 

In addition to living in the U.S. for one year after you obtained asylum, you must continue to be “admissible” to the United States. The “inadmissibility” grounds include certain types of contagious diseases, criminal convictions, drug abuse, prior immigration law violations, and involvement in terrorism. However, waivers are available in some instances. You can apply for a waiver by filing USCIS Form I-602, “Application by Refugee for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability,” along with your adjustment application.

For more on inadmissibility and how to apply for a waiver, see “Inadmissibility: When the U.S. Can Keep You Out.

Note that USCIS forgives certain violations of immigration laws for people granted asylum (which make other types of applicants inadmissible), such as entering the U.S. illegally or with false documents. Also, the “public charge” inadmissibility ground does not apply to asylees. So, you can still get a green card if you have been receiving food stamps, free medical care, or other public benefits.

You Must Not Have Abandoned Your Asylee Status or Firmly Resettled Elsewhere

Because you must show that you continue to need protection in the U.S., you should not travel abroad for any significant amount of time after being granted asylum. You should absolutely avoid visiting your home country before you are granted LPR status. Otherwise, USCIS will assume that you do not need asylum protection anymore.

Also, if you have spent a significant portion of your time in asylee status in a third country, USCIS might consider you to have firmly resettled there. If you have received a grant of permanent residence, citizenship, or another residency benefit from a nation other than the U.S. or your country of origin, you will not qualify to apply for a U.S. green card.

If you need to travel outside the U.S. before you have a green card, you must file Form-131, “Application for Travel Document,” before you leave the United States. To learn more, see “If You Travel or Move While Awaiting Your Adjustment of Status Interview.”

If you think that you might have issues with any of the requirements listed above, consult an immigration attorney.

What Documents You Need to Apply for a Green Card

To apply for a green card, you must mail Form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status,” to USCIS along with the appropriate fees. You can download this form for free from the “I-485” page of the USCIS website. An updated list of fees can be found at the G-1055, “Fee Schedule.” You can also apply for a fee waiver using Form I-912, “Request for Fee Waiver.”

You must include the following supporting documents with your I-485:

  • Form I-693, “Report of Medical Exam and Vaccination Record.”
  • Form G-325A, “Biographic Information Sheet,” if you are between 14 and 79 years of age.
  • Evidence that you are an asylee: Copy of your I-94 card, “Arrival-Departure Record,” (most likely stapled to your passport) and your approval notice granting asylum; OR a copy of the immigration judge’s orders showing that you were granted asylum.
  • Proof that you have been living in the U.S. for the last year (for example, copies of pay stubs, home lease, utility bills, or receipts of government benefits), and
  • Two passport-style photographs.

Make sure that each document in a foreign language includes a complete translation into English, as described in “Translating Non-English Documents for Immigration Applications.”

How to Apply for a Green Card for Your Family Members

Your spouse and children must have been in the U.S. for at least one year after they were granted derivative asylum before they can apply for their green cards. That is, if you were granted asylum in January 2012, and your family arrived here as derivative asylees in January 2013, they will be eligible for their green cards in January 2014.

You must prepare a separate Form I-485 application (with a fee, and supporting documents listed above) for each family member. You may submit complete applications for several applicants in the same mailing package. In addition, you must submit:

  • copy of your marriage certificate (for your spouse), or birth certificate (for your child); and
  • evidence that you filed your adjustment application or that you already have your green card.

What Will Happen After You File Your Green Card Application

Some months after filing, you will receive a written notice to go to an Application Support Center for your biometrics appointment, where you will have your fingerprints, photograph, and signature taken. USCIS will run a background check on you using that information. For more information, see “What to Expect at a Biometrics Appointment.” You must go to your biometrics appointment and any interviews required by USCIS, or your application might be denied.

Although most LPR adjustment applications do not require an interview, you may, some weeks later, be called in for an interview at your local USCIS office if there are questions regarding your application or your eligibility. Make sure to bring originals of all the documents you submitted with your adjustment application and their official English translations. Also, bring a language interpreter if you are not fluent in English.

Soon after the interview, you will receive a written decision on your adjustment application.

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