Asylum Backlog – Processing Changes
USCIS announced on 01/31/2018 that it will begin scheduling asylum interviews for recent applications filed before it processes older applications. This last in, first out approach will mean very fast processing and interviews for I-589 applicants who file in January 2018 or after.
Asylum applicants, applying affirmatively with USCIS can wait years for their applications to process. During this wait time, an applicant can apply for an employment authorization document (EAD), also called a work permit using form I-765. In general, applicants can apply for the EAD once their affirmative asylum application has been pending with USCIS for at least 150 days. Although there is no fee to apply for the initial work permit, almost all applicants need to apply for at least one more work permit, and subsequent EAD applications do require a fee.
Although the processing time for work permits is supposed to be 90 days, USCIS sometimes processes outside of the 90 days. This can be difficult and frustrating for an applicant who may be required to stop working while awaiting their EAD renewal.
USCIS has put in place a new 2 year EAD that should help with some of these frustrations. Effective October 5, 2016, USCIS increased the validity period for both initial and renewal work permits to two years. The change applies to all I-765 applications with category (c)(8) that are pending on October 5th, or submitted on or after this date.
Q: I’m currently on an F-1 student visa studying in the US. I am afraid to go back to my home country. Can I apply for asylum?
A: Yes, immigrants present in the US may apply for asylum, as long as they have a true non-frivolous claim. Although applicants generally need to apply during their first year in the US, there are some exceptions, including maintaining another lawful immigration status (like your F-1 status.) However, you should still apply as soon as possible.
TPS: Some countries have been designated for Temporary protected Status, or TPS. You should check the list of current TPS countries, and talk with your international student advisor or an immigration attorney about this option as well.
Asylum: Asylum is not just based on being afraid. Your situation/fears need to meet 3 specific criteria, and need to be reasonable. For example, as part of the application, you would provide reports to show that harm you suffered, or are afraid of suffering is reasonable for your country. I’ll outline the general 3 criteria below:
Q: I am on an F-1 visa studying in the US. What options do I have to obtain a green card in the US?
A: This is a BIG question! Generally, green cards are obtained through employment opportunities, family relationships, or via asylum status. Here is a quick summary of the options:
Yes, you can eventually bring your spouse to the US, but I am sorry to inform you that this will take some time. You will need a green card or US Citizenship before you can apply for your spouse because the marriage happened after you received asylum status. I would recommend you apply for your spouse after you have received your green card as it will likely be a bit faster than waiting until you are a US Citizen.
As asylee is generally eligible to apply for a green card after 1 year in the US in asylum status. After you’ve applied it could take between 6 months to 1 year to receive your green card. Once you have the green card, you can then submit a petition to sponsor your foreign national spouse. Unfortunately, you then will need to wait another 1-2 years because a spouse of a green card holder is the F2A priority category, and this category is not current. See the visa bulletin for how long F2A category (spouses of permanent residents) are waiting.
I originally come from Yemen and currently there is a civil war going on there. My brother is a US citizen and he is over 21. Can he petition for me?
Answer: While it is possible to change from a B visa to another visa type, you need to be first eligible for another visa.
TPS: The US will designate other countries for TPS, or temporary protected status for different reasons, including “ongoing armed conflict, such as civil war.” Yemen is not currently listed, but you can continue to check the TPS country list and read more about TPS here.
Asylum: Asylum could possibly be an option, but it would depend on your specific story and facts. This is something an immigration attorney could help you with, after listening to your story in detail. A civil war in a country is not in itself reason for asylum. Check back soon, as I will be posting more details regarding asylum eligibility.
Adjustment through your brother: It would take a long time for you to be able to obtain a green card based on your brother sponsoring you, and you would not have lawful status in the US while you waited. You can see the wait time by looking up the US Department of State’s most recent visa bulletin. A brother falls under the F-4 family sponsored category, and the priority date is October 2002, meaning those from Yemen in the F-4 category have been waiting 13 years.
Student visa: Another option is to apply to a University in the US. Do not enroll while in B1/B2 status, however, you can apply to a program, and have your school, or an attorney assist you with a change of status from B to F-1. A change of status can take 3-5 months, so be sure you have enough time before you B visa expires. Once the change of status is approved to F-1, you would be eligible to enroll.