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Benefits Of Being an Asylee

18th July 2011
By Paul Anderson in Immigration Law
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Once asylum is granted, it means that the asylee can live and work legally in the US and will subsequently have the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residence and citizenship.

However, it is important to note that asylum is not a permanent, guaranteed status for life in the US. For that reason, it is essential for asylees to apply for lawful permanent residence one year from the date on which they were granted asylum.

Derivative Asylum for Spouse and Children

Immediate family members present in the US and included in the original asylum application automatically receive asylum together with the primary applicant. “Immediate family members” include the asylee’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age.

Eligibility for Employment and a Social Security Number

You automatically become eligible to work in the US and do not need an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Asylees who do not have a valid passport or other government-issued identity card choose to apply for an EAD. An EAD is valid for one year and is issued free of charge to asylees upon initial application, but subject to a fee for subsequent renewal applications.

An EAD should not be used as a substitute for a social security card and a state-issued ID card. The latter two documents should be used as proof of eligibility to accept employment in the US when completing an I-9 form with a potential employer.

Public Benefits

After being granted asylum, for the first seven years, asylees are eligible for Social Security Income, Medicaid, and Food Stamps, and a variety of other benefits and services. Eligibility for many of these programs may be extended past the first seven years. However, most of these programs are time-limited. So individuals may only be able to receive benefits for periods of three months to a year, depending on the programs. Other programs may be available continuously

Some benefits programs are available only to asylees, refugees, and victims of human trafficking. Apart from administering benefits programs and providing general public benefits counseling, agencies provide English classes, employment training and placement programs, mental health programs, youth and elderly services, and referrals to other social service agencies.

Unlike most other foreign nationals who apply for lawful permanent residence, asylees need not prove that they are not likely to become a public charge. They can receive government financial benefits without harming the ability to obtain permanent residence in the US.

International Travel

Asylees can travel outside the US with refugee travel documents. It is important that he/she not return to his/her home country until he/she has become a US citizen and can travel with a US passport. If the asylee returns to his/her home country, USCIS could refuse to allow him/her to reenter the US on the grounds that he/she no longer fears persecution.

Even after obtaining legal permanent residence, asylees have to use a Refugee Travel Document to travel abroad. It is only after he/she becomes a US citizen that he will be eligible for a US passport. Asylees should also understand that until they obtain US citizenship they cannot travel back to their countries.
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