Information for Asylees
This page contains information for persons with a formal letter granting the immigration status of Asylum.
An asylee is a person who has fled his or her country and is unable or unwilling to return due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group. An individual may be granted asylum by the Asylum Division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or, in immigration court by the U.S. Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Some benefits and services may be time sensitive. The Refugee Health Screening should be completed within 90 days of the asylum grant date.
Asylee Virtual Orientation
Remaining sessions for 2023 are: June 13, July 11, Aug 8, Sep 12, Oct 10, Nov 14, Dec 12.
Please complete the registration form to register and receive a Zoom link.
Every month the USCIS San Francisco Asylum Office partners with the California Department of Public Health's Office of Refugee Health and the San Francisco Department of Public Health's Newcomer's Health Program to conduct an orientation on benefits and services for newly granted asylees in California.
The monthly session covers topics that pertain specifically to asylees in California such as important documents, safety net benefits, health care and employment resources. USCIS partners lead the section on immigration with important information that applies to all asylees throughout the U.S. Key topics include family reunification, travel documents, and adjustment of status to lawful permanent residency (application for ‘green card’) and citizenship.
The registration form includes the option to request support in accessing medical screening and medical care and for a specialist from the California Department of Public Health's Office of Refugee Health to contact them directly.
All persons granted asylum, service providers, and attorneys are welcome to attend the sessions held on the 2nd Tuesdays of each month at 10 am Pacific Time.
More information can be found on the SF Refugee, Asylee, and Immigrant Forum website.
How to Get a Medical Screening, Medical Care, and Public Benefits in California
Refugee Health Assessment Program
The Refugee Health
Assessment Program (RHAP) is a free medical exam that includes tuberculous (TB)
testing and vaccines. The exam also covers vaccines that are needed for green
card applications. The exam is open to newly arrived refugees, asylees, victims
of human trafficking, Special Immigrant Visa holders, and humanitarian parolees
from Afghanistan, Cuba, Haiti, and Ukraine. The following counties
have RHAP clinics: Alameda, Contra Costa, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange,
Sacramento, San Bernardino (also serves Riverside County), San Diego, San
Francisco (also covers Marin and San Mateo Counties), Santa Clara, and
Stanislaus. Visit the RHAP County Clinics webpage for the list of RHAP clinics in California.
RHAP clinics ask patients to split their medical exam in to two visits. During the first visit, lab tests and vaccines are done. The second visit covers a physical exam, lab follow ups, and referrals to needed specialty medical care. The second visit should be done within 90 days of the date you are granted asylum. Please enroll in Medi-Cal before scheduling your appointment with the RHAP clinic. You do not need to have your Medi-Cal card for the refugee health clinics. If you do not have Medi-Cal or are beyond the initial 90 days of being granted asylum, please speak with the Refugee Health Clinic staff.
If you live in a county that does not have a RHAP clinic, the Office of Refugee Health has created Health Screening Guidelines for Clinicians (PDF). Please print out this document and take it to your first primary care appointment. This will help your doctor understand the health conditions that are common with new arrivals. It also has advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For medical care outside of a RHAP clinic, please visit the links below for additional resources.
Information on Public Benefit Programs Including Medi-Cal for Health Care Coverage in California
Individuals with asylum status are NOT subject to Public Charge Law. Asylees are eligible to apply for government benefits. For further information, see the USCIS webpage.
Eligibility for all benefit programs is determined according to an individual or family's earned income. Programs are administered by the local county Human/Social Services Agency. You must apply for benefits in the county of residence. Some benefits are time sensitive beginning on the date of the asylum grant.
CalFresh provides cash benefits towards healthy and nutritious food.
CalWORKS provides cash aid and services to eligible families who have a child in the home.
If there is no minor child in the home, Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) provides cash aid and services to Office of Refugee Resettlement eligible populations.
Medi-Cal provides affordable, high-quality medical and dental care services to children and adults who meet the Medi-Cal eligibility requirements.
How to Apply for Benefits
Individuals may apply online on the MyBenefits CalWin website or the BenefitsCal website. As an alternative, applications can be submitted in person to the local county Human or Social Service Agency. The Department of Health Care Services County Offices webpage can be used to find the local county office.
The California Public Benefits Fact Sheet (PDF) contains more information on how to sign up for public benefits in California.
If applying for California Public Benefits in person, the Public Benefits Application Cover Sheet (PDF) includes a checklist of necessary documents to apply for public benefits in CA.
Information on Dental Care and Transportation Benefits for Medi-Cal Recipients
More information on the Medi-Cal Dental Program can be found on the Dental Care for Medi-Cal Recipients Fact Sheet (PDF) and on the Department of Health Care Services website. Medi-Cal can also cover transportation to medical, dental, and pharmacy visits. The Medi-Cal Transport Tool Fact Sheet (PDF) contains information on how to coordinate transportation.
For additional general information on programs pertaining to asylees, please see the California Department of Social Services' Refugee Program Bureau webpage.
Services to Assist Asylees to Navigate New Systems
ESAVN Program: Within the first year of being granted asylum, you may be eligible for up to 90 days of no-cost services to help you connect to critical resources and services through the Enhanced Services for Asylees and Vulnerable Non-Citizens (ESAVN) Program. The ESAVN Program is available in ALL regions of California. More information as well as a list of service providers can be found on the ESAVN Program webpage.
Asylee Document Information
Your I-94 document will be sent to you along with the letter which grants you asylum. This is a critical document to verify your immigration status for employment and other benefit services. Do not alter your I-94 in any way by writing on it or laminating it in plastic covering. If you lose or alter your I-94 card it can cost over $400 to replace it. Please note that if you were granted asylum in immigration court, it make take up to 30 days to receive your card in the mail. If you do not receive your card within 30 days, call the USCIS contact number: 800-375-5283.
Asylum Grant Letter from USCIS or Court Order
Your asylum grant letter verifies immigration status and the date that your asylum was granted. This letter is important to obtain services, documents, and benefits. If you were granted by the USCIS Asylum Office, your letter will be sent directly to you. If you were granted asylum in immigration court, your letter will be automatically mailed to you. If you do not receive your letter from the court within 30 days, please return back to the court to inquire directly.
Employment Authorization Document
Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card provides proof of work authorization in the United States. It also serves as a federally acceptable form of photo identification. If you are granted asylum, you are immediately authorized to work. Some asylees choose to obtain EADs for convenience or for federal identification purposes, but an EAD is not necessary to work if you are an asylee. If you want an EAD for a federal form of proof of identity, you can apply for one by filing USCIS Form I-765.
If you currently have an EAD that will soon expire and still need a federal form of identification, the validity of the EAD has been extended 540 days. However, to receive the 540 day extension, you MUST file to renew your EAD BEFORE it expires. You may file for renewal online or by mail. Both manners of requesting a renewal will generate a receipt notice which cites the period of extension.
Social Security Card
Your social security card is one of the most important documents in the United States. You will need your social security card for employment, to apply for health insurance, pay taxes, or apply for a loan or credit card. Many banks require a social security card to open an account.
To apply for a social security card, use the Field Office Locator to find your local Social Security Office. Bring your I-94 or asylum grant letter from the court and an official government issued identity document which contains a photo such as your passport or EAD card. Verify that your correct address is in the system. You should receive your card in the mail within 30 days of application.
Note: If you already have a social security card with restrictions, the restriction will be printed at the top of the card as follows “Valid for Work Only with DHS Authorization". You now MUST visit your local social security office with proof of your asylum grant to receive an unrestricted social security card. Your social security number will remain the same, but the federal system will be updated and the new card sent to your home will not have any restrictive language.
Refugee Travel Document
To travel internationally, USCIS issues refugee travel documents to people with refugee or asylum status and to lawful permanent residents who obtained their Green Cards based on their refugee or asylee status. The Application for Travel Document can be found on the USCIS website.
You must have a refugee travel document to return to the United States if you:
- Have refugee or asylee status but are not a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder); or
- Are a derivative asylee or refugee.
If you do not obtain a refugee travel document before you leave the U.S., you may be unable to re-enter the United States or you may be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.
In addition, before making plans to travel abroad, you must also check with the consulate of the country that you intend to visit to inquire whether a Refugee Travel Document will be accepted for entry. Once an application is received by USCIS, it may take many months to process. Individuals should exercise caution in booking non-refundable travel tickets accordingly.
Minor Aged Children
Education in the United States is available and mandatory in the US for children 5 years old and above. Ask your school district about programs for newcomer students and families.
Before starting school, your child may need certain vaccines. Please make an appointment with one of the refugee health clinics near you. Visit the Immunization Branch webpage for more information on what vaccines are required.
The Vaccine for Children (VFC) Program helps families by providing vaccines at no costs.
Important Legal Timelines
Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition
The date you are granted asylum begins a two-year window of time in which you may file the Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition USCIS Form I-730 to bring your spouse and unmarried children under age 21 to the U.S. as derivative asylees.
Adjustment of Status to Lawful Permanent Resident/Green Card
Please note that there are two components to apply for your adjustment of status to Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card). The process requires that you submit the USCIS Form Number I-693 plus USCIS Form Number I-485. You are currently not required to submit both forms together. However, USCIS has issued the following alert April 2023.
USCIS ALERT: Save time by submitting Form I-693, Report of Immigration Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, at the same time you file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. We generally consider a completed Form I-693 to remain valid for 2 years after the date the civil surgeon signed Form I-693.
Filing your Form I-485 with Form I-693 may eliminate the need for us to issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to obtain your Form I-693, which delays review of your application until you respond to the RFE.
Note, the I-693 form can only be completed by a USCIS registered civil surgeon. Please use the USCIS search tool to find a list of civil surgeons in your area.
Step One: Find a civil surgeon.
Step Two: Inquire about the cost of the medical immigration I-693 exam as prices among civil surgeons vary greatly.
Step Three: Bring a copy of your complete vaccine and medical records to the immigration medical exam. After your exam is complete, the civil surgeon will place the USCIS I-693 form in a sealed envelope. It is important that you DO NOT break the seal of the envelope. If your envelope seal is broken, your application will be returned by USCIS.
Step Four: Fill out the legal paperwork component Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Step Five: Mail I-693 and I-485 together to the address listed for your area on the USCIS website, along with any applicable fees. It is recommended that you complete the I-693 as close as possible to the time that you will file your I-485. I-693 exams are only valid for 2 year period and it may take USCIS up to 2 years to process your application.
Your attorney or accredited legal representative can assist to help you file for an adjustment of status. You may find a list of accredited legal representatives on the Recognized Organizations and Accredited Representatives Roster by State and City (PDF, 1.12MB).