You've Been Granted Political Asylum. Now What?

Let’s say a refugee from, I dunno, Luxembourg is granted political asylum in the US. His name is Fred.

So what happens to Fred once he’s granted asylum? Is he a ward of the state, so to speak? What is his immigration status (alien, citizen?)? Will he just be like a regular American from now on, and have to get a job and a driver’s license and all that? Is he given some sort of police protection?

AFAIK, Fred will then go thru the same process to get his green card and apply for citizenship as any other resident alien.

But at least at one point, there were government programs to get political refugees established in the country. I remember a famous bodybuilder named Sergio Oliva (one of the first winners of the Mr. Olympia title) who defected from Cuba. He mentioned in an interview that he was given a job to give him a chance to learn English and get acclimatized. But he had to get a regular job pretty soon. He became a policeman in Chicago.


Actually, there is a difference between being granted refugee status outside the U.S. and then immigrating here, and being granted political asylum after arrival in the U.S.

In the former case, the refugee is granted employment authorization upon arrival (along with most other rights and responsibilities of permanent residents) and can apply for a green card after one year (though it’s important to note that this is not the same as receiving a green card; processing times are around 2 years right now in most jurisdictions).

In the latter case, a few years back, a very controversial quota was imposed of 10,000 asylum grantees receiving permanent residency every year, so that there is now a backlog of several years before asylees can receive permanent residence. They can apply for employment authorization during this time, but it needs to be renewed yearly. And for as long as they are not permanent residents, they cannot apply for family members to come over in the way that permanent residents normally do, and they are not eligible for certain other benefits available to permanent residents – for one thing, many states consider them to be “international students” for out-of-state tuition purposes, which makes it difficult for them to pursue higher education.

Eva Luna, U.S. Immigration Paralegal