Simply put, asylum is the process by which you receive U.S. protection when you come to this country as a refugee. Per information from The American Immigration Council, you qualify as a refugee if you are a person “who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future ‘on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’”
Once granted asylum, you can apply to permanently live in the U.S., receive a green card, bring your spouse and children here to join you, and ultimately achieve U.S. citizenship. You may also become eligible to receive such benefits as Refugee Medical Assistance or Medicaid.
Unfortunately, the asylum application process is difficult and time-consuming. It can take years before your application becomes fully processed. Until then, you do not have lawful immigrant status and could face removal, i.e., deportation, proceedings.
If you are not part of the removal process, you can affirmatively apply for asylum through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The asylum officer has the authority to grant or deny your application. If he or she denies it, you will then have to appear in immigration court.
If you are already part of the removal process, you can still defensively apply for asylum. In this situation, you must file your application with an immigration judge employed by the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Be aware that the EOIR will not provide you with an appointed lawyer. You must secure an immigration lawyer on your own.