If you’re living illegally in the United States and fear that being deported back to your homeland will result in persecution, you can seek what’s known as “asylum and withholding of deportation.” Asylum and withholding of deportation is granted to individuals who can legitimately prove that returning to their home country would result in their life or freedom being threatened on the basis of their race, nationality, political opinion, religious beliefs, or membership in a social group. If you’re granted asylum, not only will you be allowed to live and work in the United States, but you may also apply for permanent resident status after one year. If you’re granted only a withholding of deportation, it’s similar to being granted asylum, except that it doesn’t permit you to apply for permanent residence, and it only prohibits the Immigration and Naturalization Service from deporting you to one particular country. Both asylum and withholding of deportation lasts until terminated by an immigration judge or until you gain lawful permanent resident status. To ask for asylum or withholding of deportation, you’ll need to complete Form I-589 (eye 5-89), or “application for asylum and for withholding of removal.” You may include your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 in your asylum application if they’re already living in the United States. Expect your request to be processed within 180 days from the date you filed. The Immigration Act of 1996 requires that you apply for asylum within one year of entering the United States, unless a change in your home country's conditions has occurred or you can provide good cause regarding why your asylum application wasn’t filed in a timely manner. Keep in mind that if you’re applying for asylum and wish to travel outside the United States, you must receive advance permission before you leave the U.S. in order to return to the U.S. This advance permission is called “advance parole,” and if you fail to apply for it before you leave the United States, you may not be permitted to return. Also, when applying for asylum, you can’t apply for employment authorization at the same time. You must wait 150 days after the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or INS (I-N-S), receives your complete asylum application before you apply for employment authorization. The INS has 30 days to grant or deny your request for employment. Lastly, immigrants who have participated in the persecution of others or who have been convicted of serious criminal activity may not be granted asylum or withholding of deportation.