A refugee is an individual who has left his or her native country and is unable to return to it because they have experienced past persecution, or they fear future persecution.  The persecution must have been or will be on account of the person’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.  Some of these individuals have already been designated as refugees from outside the U.S. and have been allowed to enter the United States with refugee status.  Each year, the president determines the number of refugees that will be permitted to immigrate to the United States and can decide whether or not to permit certain refugees from certain countries.  Refugees who have been admitted to the United States can apply to live permanently in the country after one year.

Those who are already in the United States pursuant to some type of legal visa status or no status at all can apply for asylum.  The process begins with the filing of the asylum application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Asylum-seekers are permitted to remain in the United States while their applications are pending and their cases are decided after an interview with an asylum officer.  Applicants who apply for and are granted asylum once in the U.S. are called asylees and they can sponsor their immediate family members as well as apply to obtain permanent resident or “green card” status in the U.S. after one year.

The application process for asylum-seekers in the U.S. can be difficult to navigate.  Many asylum applicants are unfamiliar with immigration law when they first come to the United States and are unaware that they must submit their applications within the first year they are in the U.S.  In addition, and following the passage of the REAL ID Act of 2005, asylum applicants also bear the burden of heightened evidentiary and document requirements that are often difficult for asylum seekers to obtain.  Language and cultural struggles are also often barriers to the successful submission of timely applications for asylum.  For all these reasons and due to the often-life-or-death situations these individuals are facing in their home countries, it is imperative to have experienced and competent representation for asylum applications.  The immigration attorneys at Dworken and Bernstein are up to date with the latest, fast-changing asylum laws, and are ready to assist those individuals who wish to apply for asylum.

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