President Barack Obama's Kenyan aunt has been granted asylum to stay in the United States where she was living as an illegal immigrant, her lawyers said yesterday.

Zeituni Onyango had faced deportation in a potentially embarrassing situation for Obama, whose father's family came from Kenya.

The ruling means that Onyango will be eligible for a work permit, social security card and driver's licence, Wong said. In a year she can apply for permanent residency, or a green card, and in five years seek US citizenship.

Onyango ignored a 2004 deportation order and had to fight her deportation in court.

The White House says Obama was unaware of her illegal status until November 2008 and denies suggestions that political pressure may have been exerted on the court.