Learn About the Changes to the Asylum Process in the U.S.

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Each year, thousands of people come to the U.S. to seek protection because they have suffered persecution or fear being harmed if they return to their home country. Once they reach the U.S., these people go through the asylum-seeking process. Recently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced several critical changes to the asylum application process. Here, I will tell you how these changes will benefit immigrants.

Next, I am going to answer the following questions:

  1. What is asylum?
  2. What is the difference between asylum seekers and asylees? 
  3. What are the changes in the asylum application process?
  4. How will this rule impact asylum seekers and those with pending cases?
  5. Has this new rule gone into effect yet?
  6. Where can I find additional information about these changes?

What is asylum?

Asylum is a form of protection the U.S. government may grant to someone fleeing their country because they fear they will be harmed based on their:

  • race; 
  • religion;
  • nationality; 
  • political opinion; or 
  • membership in a particular social group. 

You may only file for asylum if you are physically present in the United States and regardless of your immigration status.

What is the difference between asylum seekers and asylees?

An asylum seeker is anyone who has fled persecution in their home country and is seeking haven in a different country but has not yet received any legal recognition or status. Therefore, asylum seekers become “asylees” when they are granted legal status by the U.S. government.

Asylees have the right to remain in the U.S. indefinitely, or at least until conditions in their home country return to normal. They also have the right to apply for employment authorization (work permit).

What are the changes in the asylum application process?

USCIS is no longer applying the following rules to asylum cases:

  • Rule 1: The 30-day processing timeframe for work permit applications.
  • Rule 2: Immigration officers can deny asylum, interview, and work permit applications at their discretion.

USCIS also implemented the following four changes:

  1. You can apply for a work permit 150 days after submitting the asylum application instead of waiting 365 days. But beware, you are not eligible for a work permit until your asylum application has been pending for 180 days.
  2. USCIS no longer requires you to pay the biometric service fee when filing for employment authorization (Form I-765). Again do not pay for it. Submitting it may cause USCIS to reject your application for overpayment. But beware, you will need to show up for your biometrics appointment as part of your I-589 application.
  3. You may be eligible for a work permit based on your pending asylum application, even if you did not apply for asylum within 1 year after you entered the U.S.
  4. Only those people who have committed serious crimes will be denied work permits under this new rule. Those who have committed misdemeanors will not be affected. It is recommended that you seek advice from a lawyer for these legal matters.

Has this new rule gone into effect yet?

As of February 7, 2022, USCIS no longer applies the Final Rule implemented by the Trump administration on June 22, 2020, for asylum applicants. And on September 21, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the publication of a final rule consistent with USCIS. Simply put, these new rules are in effect and positively impact new asylum seekers and those with pending asylum applications.

Where can I find additional information about these changes?

For more information, I encourage you to visit the following sites:

**Noticias para Inmigrantes is a media and communications organization that provides independent reporting and commentary on issues affecting immigrants in the United States. It should be noted that we do not provide legal assistance or legal advice for any case unless we interview a specialized source on the subject. It is critical to clarify that each case is different, and it is important to consult with your attorney.

Mitzi Colin Lopez is a Digital Ads Content Creator and Experimenter at Noticias Para Inmigrantes. Her origin as a Mexican immigrant characterizes and drives her to empower the Latinx, Hispanic and immigrant communities. She is a recent graduate of West Chester University, where she obtained her bachelor’s in Political Science and Spanish. Her passions include social justice, advocacy, hiking, traveling, and weightlifting.