QUESTION: I have won asylum as of about two years ago. Is there anything I need to do?
Answer: If you have come to the U.S. as a refugee or been granted asylum in the U.S. — whether from the Asylum Office of .S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or by an immigration judge in court —you are now allowed to live in the U.S., accept U.S. employment, and travel and return (with a refugee travel document in place of a passport).
Additional rights will become yours with time, such as that to apply for a U.S. green card after one year, and to apply for U.S. citizenship four years after that. Learn more about how to protect and make the best use of your refugee or asylum status here. However, you MUST apply for the Green Card after the one year grant. It is not automatic and will not happen unless you apply.
Question: Can I bring my spouse and children into the U.S. now?
Answer: Once you have been granted asylum, your immediate family members (spouse and children)—whether they are in the U.S. or outside—are entitled to a “derivative” grant of asylum. If your spouse and children were included in your asylum application and are physically present in the U.S., they will automatically receive asylum at the same time as you.
If they are overseas, or were not included in your application, you can file USCIS Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition to obtain asylum for them. Use a separate form for each family member.
For your spouse to be eligible for asylum, the two of you must have been legally married (that is, with a government-issued certificate) before you were granted asylum. For your children to be eligible, they must be unmarried and younger than 21. Thereafter, once you qualify for the Green Card or residency, they will as well.
As for the CSPA, the grant of asylum while your children who are under 21 years of age will have their age locked in so as to be able to apply as an immediate relative for them even after they are over 21 years old.
Question: Can I later become a U.S. Citizen?
Answer: You may apply for U.S. citizenship (to “naturalize”) five years after obtaining your green card by filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
Technically, you are eligible to apply for citizenship five years after you officially become a permanent resident. However, one year of your time as an asylee counts as if you already had a green card. This is known as “rollback.” Hence, your green card will specify your starting permanent residence date as one year before your residence application was actually approved.
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Atty. Brian D. Lerner has been an Immigration Attorney for nearly a quarter of a century. He is married to a Filipina and has helped thousands of Filipino families all over the country. In addition to his offices in Southern California in Long Beach and Carson, he has an office in Quezon City. He is a certified specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Legal Board of Specialization, California State Bar. The initial consultation is free. Call (562) 495-0554 and/or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.