The U.S. can grant asylum to an individual who is physically present in the U.S. (or at a land border or port-of-entry to the U.S. when seeking protection) and who qualifies as a refugee, defined as a person who has a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion”, who cannot or will not return to his or her home country, and to whom the home country cannot or will not provide protection.  Person who meet this definition but are outside the U.S. can apply for refugee status with the U.S. Department of State or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Strict rules apply to the grounds for requesting asylum and the time following entry to the U.S. within which an asylum application may be filed.  Exceptions to the time limit rules for filing may apply in some circumstances, but such exceptions are very rare. 

If a person is granted asylum, then the spouse and young children of the “asylee” may also be granted asylum. An asylee can live and work in the U.S. and apply for a Green Card one year later after being granted asylum.  Other forms of relief allowing an individual to remain in the U.S. based on a fear of returning to his or her home country include “withholding of removal” and relief under the U.S. Convention Against Torture, each which include their own unique requirements.