Asylum and refugee status

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
Asylum benefits used to be limited to people from certain countries, but now it's available to refugees worldwide. To qualify for refugee or asylum status, you must have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political affiliation. It also takes into account things such as close relatives in the U-S, stable employment, and the lack of a criminal record. There are some differences between refugee and asylum processes. Unlike asylum, refugee status can only be obtained if you're outside both your own country and the United States, and you're unwilling or unable to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution is defined as harm or suffering inflicted upon the applicant as punishment for possessing a belief or characteristic that the prosecutor will not tolerate. Your application must be filed either with the nearest INS. office outside the U-S or at a designated U-S Consulate. The burden of proof of the persecution rests with the refugee. If you're in the U-S, or at the land border of the U-S, and believe you're a victim of persecution, you can apply for political asylum with asylum officers under the jurisdiction of the Central Office of Refugee, Asylum and Parole within one year of entry. You can file even if you're in the U-S illegally, or in deportation or exclusion proceedings. Whether applying as a refugee or an asylee, you'll be interviewed to determine if your claim is legitimate and your application should be approved. Your eligibility for refugee or asylee status may be affected if it's alleged that you've: involved in the persecution of other persons; firmly resettled in another country; convicted of an especially serious crime; or committed a serious non-political crime prior to coming to the U-S. According to regulations, if your application has been pending for at least one hundred and fifty days, you may be given permission to work. One year after receiving refugee or asylee status, you may become eligible to apply for permanent residence. For more information, contact an attorney qualified in the area of immigration.

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