Refugee and Asylum Petitions

Immigrant Perspective
To be honest I do not appreciate when people have a simplistic view of Africa. From my experience living in the Unites States, most people associate Africa with disease, poverty and war. While there is some truth to this, Africa is a huge diverse continent with many countries, cultures and natural beauty. There is more to Africa than just disease, poverty and war. From the American perspective the only good that comes from Africa is the safari and it takes a very adventurous American to really understand the complexities of Africa.

For the average foreigner a visit to Africa is usually based on volunteering to humanitarian missions. Africans have been reduced to receiving fish instead of fishing themselves. There is an assumption of poor Africans always needing help. This might be true to some extent, but many Africans just need the same economic opportunities that other nations have enjoyed around the world for decades. Unfortunately, there is not enough political will among African leaders to provide economic opportunities for their own people.

I grew up in Kenya and I was lucky not to have experienced persecution of any kind. Growing up I always believed that Kenya was a peaceful country and we were taught to sing Swahili songs about Kenya being a peace and loving country that welcomes visitors. In fact, most people around the world are familiar with the Kenyan phrase “hakuna matata” meaning no worries or no problems.

Personally, that peaceful story changed when there was political unravel in 1997. I experienced clashes between the tribes, it was very sad to see my lifelong neighbors flee for safety, they left their homes to seek shelter in safe boundaries because the country was going through tribal conflicts. Again, in 2007 there were more serious political conflicts leading to loss of life and property. Fortunately, I was already in the United States and did not have to go through the pain.Obviously, I had to worry about the safety of my family back home.

Although Kenyan political violence has never risen to the level of a full blown war, it is important to remember that many individuals have been affected through displacements, loss of life and property. The Kenyan political violence is a minor example of political violence compared to other African nations. We obviously have heard about violence and war in African countries such as Rwanda, Guinea,Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Eritrea,Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. With this strong history of serious conflicts in Africa, I feel the need to write about some of the Unites States immigration benefits available to those who have experienced persecution in one form or the other.

How to Come to the United States as a refugee
According to the laws of the United states, a refugee is someone who does not reside in the US and demonstrates concern to the United States. The individual must show evidence of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinions or belonging to a social group. The refugee should not be resettled in another country and must meet the requirements of the United States law. It must be noted that if someone played a role in inciting, assisting or participating in harming others-based race, religion, nationality of membership in a social group, such an individual is not allowed to apply for refugee status in the United States. More information about refugee qualifications can be obtained at 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Refugees cannot start the application process unless they are referred to the United States by the Refugee Admissions Program. After received referral the refugee will get help with completing application information and will also be interviewed by an international immigration officer who will determine the status and qualifications of each individual applicant. Refugees are eligible to apply benefits for their legal spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old.

Once the application has been approved, the refugee will receive a medical examination to determine their health status and will also receive cultural education. They will also get medical and financial help upon arrival in the United States. Refugees planning to reunite with family members must file a petition to bring family within two years of arrival in the united states by filing, for their spouse and unmarried children under 21.

The good news about refugees is that they can work immediately after arriving in the United States. The immigration officer at the port of entry will stamp the I-94 with a special refugee stamp which can be shown to the employer as permission to work legally in the United States. Application for employment authorization will be petitioned for the employment authorization card to be issued.

Refugees can apply for permanent residence one year after arriving to the United states. Finally, it is important to obtain permission to travel outside the United states before leaving otherwise the refugee will not be allowed to re-enter the United States without authorized travel documents.

More information about immigrating a refugee can be found at https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/refugees

How to petition for asylum status
Many people around the world seek shelter in the United States to escape fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality or membership to a social organization or political opinion. If you happen to be in the United States and fear going back home because of possible persecution you may file a petition to remain in the united states within one year of arrival in the country. Application fees are not required when filing for asylum status.

It is important to remember that asylum applicants cannot apply for employment authorization at the same time of requesting asylum status. There must be a waiting period of 150days and if the asylum status is approved then the applicant may seek employment immediately. The employment authorization card is not required although most applicants chose to obtain the card for identification purposes.

Once the asylum status has been granted the applicant may petiton for his spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old to reunite in the United States. The application must be completed 2 years after approval of the asylum status. Fortunately,there is no application fee required when applying for asylum petitions. Finally, asylum seekers can apply for permanent residence one year after their status has been granted.

For more information about refugees and asylum immigration benefits visit https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum

Janet Rangi Blogger/Vlogger

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