Petition for Asylum

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What is an Asylum and How Can You Apply for One? – A Detailed Look

The asylum application process in the United States is a critical pathway for foreign nationals who fear persecution back in their home countries due to factors like religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Asylum offers protection against deportation, defining a safe harbor for those who qualify under rigorous immigration law and human rights criteria.

There are two main pathways for seeking asylum in the United States: the affirmative process, accessible to individuals at the port of entry or already within the U.S., and the defensive process for those facing removal proceedings in immigration court. Successful asylum seekers gain the ability to work, apply for family members, and eventually pursue a green card and U.S. citizenship, cementing asylum as a cornerstone of protection and hope for many.

Understanding Asylum and Eligibility

Eligibility for asylum in the United States hinges on specific criteria that applicants must meet. Key points include:

  • Persecution Criteria: Applicants must demonstrate persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution due to:
    • - Race
    • - Religion
    • - Nationality
    • - Membership in a particular social group
    • - Political opinion
  • Application Timeline: The Form I-589 must be filed within one year of arrival in the U.S., with exceptions for changed or extraordinary circumstances.
  • Family Inclusion: Dependent family members, such as a spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old, can be included in the application. If granted asylum, these family members may also obtain asylum status.

Additionally, all applicants undergo fingerprinting and background checks as part of the application process. There are no fees associated with applying for asylum. However, certain factors such as criminal convictions or posing a danger to the U.S. can bar individuals from receiving asylum. The asylum process is divided into two main pathways: the affirmative process for those physically present in the U.S. or at a port of entry, and the defensive process for individuals facing removal proceedings. Understanding these elements is crucial for anyone considering applying for asylum in the United States.

Preparing Your Asylum Application Form I-589

When preparing your Asylum Application Form I-589, it's crucial to follow specific guidelines to ensure your application is processed efficiently and accurately. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown to assist you:

  • Completing the Form:
    • - The I-589 form is accessible for completion online or by mail. For certain categories of affirmative asylum applicants, mailing the application directly to the Asylum Vetting Center is required.
    • - Ensure all information about your last entry into the U.S., including date, place, and status, is precise.
    • - Attach a copy of your passport, covering front and back covers and every interior page.
    • - Detail information about your spouse and children, if applicable, and list your last address outside the U.S., residences for the past five years, education, employment, and family members.
    • - Provide a succinct summary of your claim in the “essay” questions in Part B, and disclose any criminal history.
  • Supporting Documents:
    • Attach documents evidencing the general conditions in your home country and the specific facts supporting your claim.
    • If you did not file for asylum within the first year of arriving in the U.S., explain the reasons, highlighting any changed or extraordinary circumstances.
  • Rights and Protections:
    • Remember, confidentiality is protected throughout the process, and you have the right to legal representation at your own expense.
    • As of recent updates, applicants no longer need to submit a passport-style photo, multiple copies of the form, or multiple copies of supporting documentation.

Navigating the Asylum Interview Process

Navigating the asylum interview process is a critical step in your journey towards seeking protection in the United States. Here’s a concise guide to ensure you’re well-prepared:

  • Interpreter Requirements:
    • From September 13, 2023, applicants must provide their own interpreter if not fluent in English or prefer another language.
    • Interpreters must be over 18 and fluent in both English and the applicant's language. Sign language interpreters are an exception.
  • Interview Preparation:
    • Notice: Expect an interview notice 6-12 months after the application, depending on how busy the office is. The interview is scheduled 2-3 weeks thereafter.
    • Attendees: You, your spouse, and unmarried children under 21 in the U.S.
    • What to Bring: Interview notice, identity and immigration documents, a copy of your asylum application, and water. Food is not permitted.
    • Duration: Interviews last 2-4 hours, sometimes longer. Be prepared for an extensive discussion.
    • Rescheduling: Avoid changing the interview date. If necessary, send a detailed request to the corresponding service center.
  • During the Interview:
    • Document Translation: All non-English documents need English translations, accompanied by a translator's signed statement.
    • Focus: Review your application and practice detailing your case. Answer all questions truthfully and ask for clarification when needed.
    • Confidentiality: The interview is confidential. Be open and detailed about your reasons for seeking asylum.

Post-Application Steps and Maintaining Status

After submitting your asylum application, navigating the post-application steps and maintaining your status are crucial. Here's a breakdown of important considerations:

  • Employment Authorization:
    • Apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) if your asylum application has been pending for at least 150 days.
    • Once granted asylum, you're immediately authorized to work.
    • If denied, the EAD remains valid until its expiration or 60 days post-denial, whichever is later.
  • Maintaining Asylum Status:
    • Asylum status does not expire but can be terminated under specific conditions.
    • Report any change of address to USCIS and the Immigration Court if your case is pending.
    • All income earned in the U.S. must be reported to the IRS.
  • Path to Permanent Residency:
    • After one year of being granted asylum, you're eligible to apply for a green card.
    • Requirements include physical presence in the U.S. for one year post-asylum grant, maintaining 'refugee' status, not being firmly resettled in another country, and not being 'inadmissible.'
    • Asylees are not required to prove they won't become a public charge, unlike other green card applicants.


  • How Can You Start the Asylum Application Process?

    To begin the asylum application process, either affirmatively or defensively, you must submit Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. This form should be filed within one year of your arrival in the United States. For more detailed instructions on how to file either affirmatively or defensively, you can refer to the "Obtaining Asylum in the United States" page.

  • What Does Seeking Asylum Entail?

    Seeking asylum involves a person leaving their home country due to fear of persecution or serious human rights violations and looking for protection in another country. This person has not yet been granted refugee status and is awaiting a decision on their asylum application. It's important to note that the right to seek asylum is recognized internationally as a fundamental human right.

  • On What Basis Can Asylum Be Granted?

    Asylum claims must be based on persecution for reasons that fall into one of five categories, as recognized by both U.S. and international law. These categories are race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The definition of "particular social group" has been the subject of extensive legal debate.

  • What Does Being Granted Asylum Mean for Immigrants?

    When an immigrant is granted asylum under U.S. immigration law, they are legally allowed to stay in the country without the threat of deportation. Asylum status also allows them to work, travel outside the United States, and petition for their spouse or children under the age of 21 to join them in the U.S.

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