There are two ways to get political asylum: The main path is not through the deportation process, but is what is called an “affirmative filing” for political asylum. This is where a person applies for political asylum with the USCIS Asylum Office.
If the case is approved and the applicant is granted asylum by the USCIS Asylum Office, then a year later he or she can apply to become a lawful permanent resident.
If the case is not approved, then they pick up a notice that says “your case has not been approved,” and attached to that notice is a Notice to Appear (NTA) putting the applicant in front of the Immigration Court for removal/deportation proceedings. Then they are entitled to re-apply for political asylum in front of theIJ. If they are approved, they can then become a lawful permanent resident one year later.
Withholding Of Removal And Protection Under the “Convention Against Torture”
When one applies for political asylum usually, but not always, he or she is also applying for the more mandatory, but harder to obtain, defense of “withholding of removal”.
Often people will also allege that if they are returned home they will be tortured by their government, so they to stay under the UN “Convention Against Torture” or the “CAT.” When somebody applies for asylum in the immigration court, they are usually applying for asylum, withholding, and CAT relief.
But, if they have been in the United States more than one year and have never applied for asylum, they can only apply for withholding and CAT relief. However, the one year period for filing for asylum can be tolled for certain reasons.