How To Get an Asylum Green Card — Permanent Residence for Asylees

In a Nutshell

You can apply for an asylum green card one year after the U.S. government grants your request for asylum. When you apply for an asylum green card, you can also apply for green cards for your spouse and children if they received “derivative” asylum with you. You and your family are only eligible to adjust status to asylum green cards if you have been physically present in the United States for at least one year since you received asylum status. This article explains the eligibility requirements for asylum green cards and shows you the step-by-step process to apply.‍

Written by Jonathan Petts
Written May 25, 2022

What Is an Asylum Green Card?

An asylum seeker is anyone who entered the U.S. because they were fleeing targeted violence and fear of persecution in their home country. They may be documented or undocumented. This violence and fear must be due to the fact that they are a member of a particular social group or have a specific political opinion. Under U.S. immigration law, asylum-seekers can apply for a green card through adjustment of status one year after receiving their asylum grant.

What Are the Benefits of Adjusting Status From Asylum to a Green Card?

If you received a grant of asylum, you are not required to apply for a green card. However, there are many benefits of adjusting status from asylum to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. 

As a green card holder, you will enjoy immigration benefits not available to you while in asylee status. For example, you will be able to apply for U.S. citizenship in the future. You will also be able to come and go from the U.S. with Advance Parole, and you will be able to sponsor certain family members for green cards so that they can live and work peacefully with you in the United States.

Who Is Eligible for an Asylum Green Card?

To be eligible for an asylum green card, you must satisfy four conditions: 

  1. You must have been physically present in the United States for at least one year. 

  2. You must continue to meet the definition of a refugee. 

  3. You must not have resettled in any other country.

  4. You must not be deemed inadmissible. 

The rest of this section explains each of these asylum green card eligibility conditions in depth.

Be Physically Present in the U.S. for One Year

An asylee starts accruing physical presence in the U.S. beginning from the day USCIS approves their asylum request. According to U.S. immigration law, asylum seekers can apply for a green card one year after USCIS grants their asylum request. 

One year of physical presence in the U.S. only includes the time the asylee spent inside the U.S. If the asylee leaves the U.S. while in asylum status, USCIS will only count the day they left the U.S. and the day they returned to the U.S. as part of their physical presence. Anytime spent outside of the U.S. will not count toward the physical presence requirement. 

If you have asylum status, be very careful about leaving the country. It may affect your ability to keep your status. The USCIS policy manual spells out exactly how USCIS interprets physical presence when deciding on asylum green card cases.

Continue to Meet the Definition of a Refugee

To qualify to apply for a green card as an asylum seeker, you must continue to meet the definition of a refugee in U.S. immigration law. According to U.S. law, refugees are "people outside of their country who are unable or unwilling to return home because they fear serious harm." 

When applying for a green card, there must be no reason for the asylum officer to believe that you no longer fall under refugee status. If you travel back to the country you fled from, for instance, you will forfeit your refugee status. If you received derivative asylum, you must prove that you continue to be the spouse or child of the primary asylum applicant. If you're a child of a principal asylee and you get married, for instance, you will no longer be eligible for derivative asylum.

Not Firmly Resettled in Any Foreign Country

In order to keep your asylum status, you must only be “firmly settled” in the United States. USCIS will consider you as firmly settled in another country if, before entering the U.S., you received a permanent residence or citizenship offer in a third country that is neither your home country nor the United States. USCIS will also consider you firmly resettled if you leave the U.S. and receive permanent residence or citizenship in a third country after applying for asylum in the U.S. 

An asylee who wants to apply for a green card must not be a permanent resident or citizen of any third foreign country. If you are or become permanently resettled in a third country, you will lose your U.S. asylum status and be unable to apply for an asylum green card.

Not "Inadmissible"

To apply for the asylum green card, you must be “admissible.” That means that none of USCIS’s official inadmissibility grounds apply to you. The grounds of inadmissibility include your country of origin, health reasons, criminal reasons, national security reasons, prior removal proceedings, unlawful status, the likelihood of becoming a public charge, lack of labor certification, and fraud or misrepresentation. USCIS lists the full admissibility criteria for the asylum green card. 

How To Apply for an Asylum Green Card in 7 Steps

To adjust your status from an asylee to a lawful permanent resident and get an asylum green card, you must follow the seven steps below:

  1. Complete the official permanent residence application Form I-485

  2. Gather the relevant supporting documents

  3. Pay the required filing fees

  4. Submit your forms and supporting documents to USCIS

  5. Attend your biometrics services appointment

  6. Attend your green card interview

  7. Receive your asylum green card

Step 1. Prepare Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

The first step in the asylum green card application process is to complete Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This 20-page form is the official green card application. It asks about your biographic information, immigration history, immigration status, marital status, and many other things. Form I-485 will also assess whether you fall under any of the grounds of inadmissibility. You can find the most recent version of Form I-485 on the USCIS website.

Step 2. Gather Your Supporting Documents

When you have completed Form I-485, you should begin gathering your supporting documents. You’ll need the following things: 

  • A copy of your asylum approval notice.

  • Proof of your identity, preferably a birth certificate with any foreign language translated into English

  • A copy of any pages in your passport that shows any trips you made outside of the U.S. since receiving asylum.

  • Proof of one year’s worth of physical presence in the U.S. This evidence can include pay stubs, rent receipts, or other official documents that prove you have been living in the U.S. for one year.

  • Two recent passport-size photos in color, with your name written on the back of each.

  • A copy of your Form I-94: Arrival and Departure Record. USCIS should have given you this when they granted you asylum. If not, then you canget your I-94 online.

  • A copy of Form I-693: Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. This form must be completed by a USCIS-approved doctor. It isn’t always required, but USCIS may ask you to submit to a medical exam and receive vaccinations as part of the asylum process. If they require this of you, the doctor performing examination will give you a completed Form I-693.

  • Arrest records, if you have any.

  • A copy of a completed Form I-765, the Application for Employment Authorization, if you want a work permit.

  • A copy of a completed Form I-131, the Application for Travel Document, if you want to travel out of the U.S. before your green card interview. You must be sure not to travel back to the country you fled from.

Step 3. Pay the Form I-485 Filing Fee

Form I-485 has an accompanying filing fee of $1,140 and a biometrics services fee of $85. Most green card applicants pay a total of between $1,140 to $1,225. You can check USCIS for changes to the filing fees. You can pay the fees with a check or with a credit card. If you're paying with a credit card, you must complete Form G-1450: Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. 

If you cannot afford these fees, you may qualify for a fee waiver. Since you don't have to pass the public charge test as an asylee, your fee waiver request will not affect your green card application processing. You can submit a fee waiver request by filing Form I-912: Request for Fee Waiver. 

‍Step 4. Submit Your Filing Packet to USCIS

Now that you have completed all the application forms, gathered your supporting documents, and secured your filing fees, it’s time to assemble all of these items into an immigration filing packet to submit to USCIS! 

Gather all of your forms and supporting documents into a neat packet. It’s a good idea to include a cover letter that lists all the forms, fees, and documents included in the application at the front of your filing packet. Make copies of everything you are sending in, and do not submit original documents unless USCIS asks you to. You may need them later!

Once you’ve assembled your packet, it’s time to mail it to USCIS. As an asylee, you will send your application packet to one of the USCIS lockboxes. The address you send the packet to will depend on where you live and the postal service that you use to submit the application. it's a good idea to use a postal service that has tracking so that you can keep an eye on your application.

Step 5. Attend Your Biometrics Appointment

After you submit your packet, USCIS will schedule a biometrics services appointment at a local application support center (ASC) and send you a notice with the scheduled date, time, and location. At the biometrics appointment, the USCIS officer will take your fingerprints, photo, and signature. USCIS will use your information to verify with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security criminal databases that you are not involved in any illegal activity. 

Check out the USCIS guidelines on how to prepare for the biometrics appointment if you want to learn more.

Step 6. Attend Your Green Card Interview (if applicable)

Not every asylum applicant must attend a green card interview. Sometimes USCIS waives the green card interview since you already went through an asylum interview. If USCIS does require you to attend a green card interview, they will let you know by mail. 

The green card interview takes place generally three months after you submit your application. It is a significant part of the asylum green card application process for many asylees. At the interview, a USCIS officer will ask you questions about your application to confirm whether anything about your past or present circumstances prevents you from becoming a permanent resident. 

The interviewing officer may approve your application at the interview. If not, then you will receive a decision on your application in the mail soon after your interview. If USCIS approves your application, your green card will arrive in the mail a few weeks after your decision.

‍Step 7. Receive Your Asylum Green Card

USCIS will send your card in the mail within 120 days of approving your green card application. You can track your case status online with the USCIS case tracker.  Congratulations, you are now a lawful permanent resident of the United States! 

As a green card holder, you should keep your valid green card on you at all times. It’s your ticket to living and working in the U.S. and enjoying the benefits of being a lawful permanent resident. You can get a Social Security card and driver's license as a permanent resident. After you have been in permanent resident status for five years, you can apply to become a U.S. citizen

If USCIS does not approve your case, or you do not receive your green card within the 120-day time frame, you can talk to a lawyer to explore your options. If you can’t afford a lawyer, see if you qualify for help through legal aid.

How Do You Apply for an Asylum Green Card for Your Family Members?

If you applied for asylum with your family members and they received derivative asylum together with your approved request, they can also apply for a green card after a year of being physically present in the U.S. while remaining in asylee status. They can apply for their green cards with or without you, even if you choose not to apply for an asylum green card.

Each family member who wants to apply for a green card must submit a separate Form I-485 with their own required evidence and filing fees. You and your family members can mail all of the completed individual applications to USCIS in one package, or mail them to USCIS separately. 

Your family members will need to send some additional supporting documents with those listed above when they apply for their derivative asylum green cards. If you have a spouse that's applying for a green card, you must include your marriage certificate with their application and a copy of the asylum approval notice. If your child is applying for a green card, you must include their birth certificate with their application. They must also include a copy of the asylum approval notice with their application.