Just recently, in my native country of Birth in Iraq, a church located in Baghdad, Iraq was bombed and 58 people including the priest were killed. The attackers then went into the streets and even shot a 4-year old being carried by the mother. When the mother asked the shooter, “Why?,” the shooter also shot and killed her, just for being a Christian! While many Iraqis have fled that country and are now in the US, Sweden, France and other countries, many unfortunately remain and are placed in harm’s way on a daily basis.
When I heard of this story, I recalled why I became an immigration attorney. I remembered, just in case I ever forget, that I became an immigration attorney because through no fault of my own, I was born in Iraq, an unstable and even scary place. I was blessed to be able to come to the U.S. at a fairly young age of 7 or 8 years old, and that started my desire to help others that also want to live in a safe and stable country. While the U.S. may have issues, one thing I know for sure is that the U.S. is a much safer place to live than Iraq and many other countries. It is a safe haven for those who need help. It is also my great blessing that I can do a job that I love, which is to help people make U.S.A their permanent home, if they wish.
The Iraqis that fled Iraq filed for refugees status, which is a status that people outside the U.S. may apply for if they fear remaining in their country based on one of the following 5 factors: religion, race, nationality, political opinion and member of a social group. A basis for refugee status for citizens of Iraq is either religious (Christian versus Muslim or even Shiite Muslim versus Sunni Muslim) and / or political or nationality based reasons such as being associated with American Democratic ideals. Some highly educated Iraqis (like professors or doctors) are threatened or killed because they are associated with American ideals.
Asylum status is one where an applicant fears returning to his or her country and is physically here in the U.S. Refugee status is where an application is filed outside the U.S. Applicants can file for Asylum by completing form I-589, for which there is no filing fee. Please note that in general, applicants for asylum must file within one year from their date of last entry into the U.S. There are some exceptions to that rule.
Once granted asylee or refugee status, the applicant may then file for a green card after one year of their initial approval of asylee or refugee status. They will also qualify for travel permits and work authorization while they are waiting for approval of the green card. It is important to note that the REAL ID Act of 2005 has made requirements for approval of asylum much more difficult, and applicants applying now must be sure to include as much documentary proof of their claim as possible. On my website I have a list of places applicants can refer to when researching conditions in their country. The direct link is as follows: