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Escaping to a brighter future

If you have suffered torture or persecution in your home country, you may be making plans to escape. Perhaps you are thinking of coming to the United States and seeking asylum. If this is your plan, there are some important things to know before you risk your life escaping your situation.

The United States does not grant asylum overnight. In fact, it may take months or years to complete the process. However, if you are committed and have the right help, many opportunities may open for you. In addition to the peace of mind of being away from the danger that threatened you and your family, having asylum may qualify you for other benefits, including:

  • Seeking employment
  • Applying for a Social Security card
  • Petitioning the court to send for other family members
  • Being eligible for financial benefits for refugees
  • Applying for a green card after one year
  • Applying for citizenship four years after receiving your green card

Before you obtain any of these benefits, however, you must complete a long and arduous process.

What is the process for seeking asylum?

Upon your arrival in the United States, you must prove to the border agents that you fear for your life in your home country. You may be suffering persecution because of your religion, race, nationality, social acquaintances or political leanings. The border agent must agree to the significant likelihood that you are in danger, and he or she will refer you to the immigration court. You then have refugee status.

At this time, refugee advocates may help you find a place to live, or the court may place you in a detention area. Refugees who are detained are less likely to succeed in their quest for asylum. They are also more likely to become ill, physically and emotionally.

Deadlines and paperwork

Within one year from your entry into the United States, you must apply for asylum status. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is not obligated to tell you this or to remind you that your deadline is approaching. If you miss the deadline, chances are, immigration authorities will return you to your country. The U.S. denies 20 percent of asylum applicants merely because they miss the filing deadline.

Having a lawyer to assist you through the process may be in your best interests. Your lawyer will be able to walk you through the complicated paperwork and make sure you meet your deadlines. A compassionate attorney may also be able to secure your release from detention and connect you with resources to help you find a place to settle.

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