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May 25, 2019

WERNICK: Four years all you need for asylum-bid citizenship

May 29, 2018
One year after USCIS has granted a person asylum, the asylee may apply for a green card. (welcomia/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Q: I got my green card based on having been given asylum. I read in your column that I can get U.S. citizenship after just four years of permanent residence. Can you provide a citation for that? Some attorneys tell me you’re wrong.

M .E., Columbus, Ohio

A: I’m right. Title 8, U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Sec. 2209.2(f) says that for an asylee, USCIS “will record the alien’s admission for lawful permanent residence as of the date one year before the date of the approval of the application.” You can read it online at

One year after USCIS has granted a person asylum, the asylee may apply for a green card. Then, the asylee can become a U.S. citizen four years from the day the USCIS granted him or her permanent residence. The USCIS should backdate the former asylee’s green card one year.

You can submit your naturalization application three years and nine months after USCIS granted you permanent residence. Refugees who adjust status get their permanent residence backdated from when they first entered the United States.

Q: My friend from Honduras has Temporary Protected Status. She has been here since age 10. How can she get permanent residence? Attorneys she has spoken to say marriage is the only way.

Vanessa, New York

A: My guess is that the attorneys are correct — for most undocumented immigrants, including those with TPS, marriage to a U.S. citizen is the only path to legal status. Some may qualify for asylum, but to get asylum, a person must prove that he or she will be persecuted is forced to return home. Having an adult U.S. citizen child or being a child under 21 of a U.S. citizen can also provide a path, but few with TPS have those relationships.

In prior years, Congress would often grant permanent residence to individuals with TPS after they had spent many years here in that status. It is unlikely that will happen with this Congress, but the 2018 federal elections with hopes for a takeover by more immigrant-friendly legislators provides some hope.

Allan Wernick is an attorney and director of the City University of New York’s Citizenship Now! project. Send questions and comments to Allan Wernick, New York Daily News, 4 New York Plaza, New York, NY 10004 or email to [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @awernick.

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