Can I Apply for a Green Card While My Asylum Case is Pending?

Updated on June 15, 2023
At a Glance: Pending asylee status refers to the situation where an individual has applied for asylum in the United States and is awaiting a decision on their application. While their application is pending, they are considered authorized to stay in the country. However, pending asylee status does not provide strong security, as there is no guarantee of approval, and circumstances in their home country can change, requiring their return. After being granted asylee status and being present in the US for one continuous year, they can apply for a green card to gain more stability. Alternatively, they can explore obtaining a green card through marriage, which has less stringent requirements than the asylum process but requires a genuine and bona fide marriage. Seeking guidance from an immigration attorney is recommended for navigating the specific circumstances of each case.

If you find yourself in the United States with a pending asylum application, you’ve probably been through a fair share of trauma. Most likely, you are in the U.S. seeking some form of safety, security, and stability. 

Being granted asylum status will give you a long-term right to stay in the United States. However, your right to remain in the U.S. will always be conditional on your fear of persecution in your home country. As soon as the circumstances in your home country change, and there is no longer a risk (or fear) of persecution, you may have to return home. 

Once you get a green card, however, this condition doesn’t apply anymore. The moment you become a lawful permanent resident of the United States, the only thing between you and U.S. citizenship is time. There are only limited circumstances where you can be deported, and you can plan your future securely in the United States. 

If your asylum case is still pending and taking some time to get sorted out, you may be concerned. You want security as soon as possible so you can start to rebuild your life. You’re probably wondering, “can I apply for a green card while my asylum case is pending?“.

Below we look at your options for a green card if your asylum case is still pending. 

What is Pending Asylee Status? 

 You will be regarded as an asylum seeker if you are present in the U.S. and you are unable or unwilling to return to your home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution. This persecution must be based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion.

You will have a pending asylee status if you’ve applied for asylum and are waiting for a decision on your application. If you have pending asylee status, you are no longer unlawfully present in the U.S. Having this status means you are authorized to stay in the U.S., pending the outcome of your application. 

Unfortunately, having pending asylee status doesn’t grant you a lot of security. There’s no guarantee that your case will be approved. Even if it is approved, the situation back home can change any second, and you will be required to return. 

Getting a green card, on the other hand, will grant you much more stability. 

Can Asylum Applicants Apply for a Green Card?

Once you have been granted asylee status and have been in the U.S. for one continuous year, you can adjust your status from asylee to lawful permanent resident and get a green card. 

Unfortunately, the “one year of continuous presence” counting only starts once you have been granted asylee status. So, the answer to “can I apply for a green card while my asylum case is pending?” is, unfortunately, “no, you can’t.” 

Once your asylee status has been granted, and you’ve been continuously present in the U.S. for one year, you can apply for an adjustment of status. You can’t apply if you don’t have asylee status.

Keep in mind, there are only 10 000 adjustments allowed from asylee status to green card in every fiscal year. So, apply as soon as you can. 

Can Asylum Seekers Get Green Cards Through Marriage?

Just because you can’t apply for a green card on your own while your asylum case is pending doesn’t mean you don’t have other options. For example, you can get a green card through marriage, even if your asylee status hasn’t been approved yet. 

Getting a green card through marriage is easier than pursuing asylum. As we explained above, when you apply for asylum, your burden of proof is high. You have to prove fear of persecution on specific grounds. Also, even when you are granted asylum status, you still have to wait for a year before you can apply for a green card. Your green card can also be denied if the conditions in your home country have changed by the time you apply for a green card. 

To get a green card through marriage, you only have to prove a “bona fide” (good faith) marriage to your U.S. citizen spouse. You can then adjust your status without much difficulty, as long as you aren’t inadmissible to the U.S. on any other grounds. It’s crucial in this instance that your marriage should be genuine and not be an arrangement for convenience or for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card. 

If you have already applied for asylum, you have to consider a few additional factors before applying for a green card through marriage. 

If you only marry your U.S. citizen partner after submitting your asylum application or after you’ve already been placed in removal proceedings, it could look suspicious. Immigration officials may wonder whether you just got married to get the immigration benefit. You can expect a lot of questions about your relationship before your green card will be approved. The questions will aim to determine whether you got married as a backup plan or whether the marriage is real. Of course, if you can show a long relationship before getting married or before your asylum application, getting the adjustment of status will be easier. On the other hand, other factors could raise red flags to immigration officials. These factors would be things like significant age gaps, not sharing the same language, or only being able to show a short relationship after you lodged your asylum application. 

So, what is your best strategy if you want to apply for a green card through marriage, but your asylum application is still pending? If you’ve already been to your asylum interview and you’re just waiting for a decision, perhaps wait to see whether your case is approved first. But, if you have not attended your interview yet, it might make sense to apply for the green card so long. You can also send a letter to the Asylum Office to ask them to place your asylum application on hold, pending the decision of your green card application. 

It’s crucial to not withdraw your asylum application if you apply for a marriage-based green card. This could make the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suspicious of why you are marrying your partner and could jeopardize your green card application. 

Ultimately seeking the help of an experienced immigration attorney will be best so they can guide you through the specifics of your particular case.

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Unfortunately, the answer to the question “can I apply for a green card while my asylum case is pending?” is no. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have any other options. If you are in a relationship with a U.S. citizen, perhaps getting married and getting a green card could be an option. There are also other employment-based visas or study visas that you can consider. You can have a safe and secure future in the U.S!

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.