What is Asylum?
Asylum is freedom from prosecution or deportation after fleeing a country for the United States. It is typically reserved for those fearing persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, social grouping, or political opinion. Individuals who are granted asylum may later apply to adjust their status to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Asylum differs from the United States Refugee Program, as it provides protection to those individuals who have already made it to the United States, rather than bringing people to the United States for resettlement. Individuals seeking asylum may apply regardless of their country of origin or current immigration status. Also unlike the refugee program, there are no quotas on individuals granted asylum each year.
If you have arrived in the United States from a foreign country seeking safety from persecution, you can ask for asylum at any port of entry, such as a border crossing, airport, or seaport. There is no right to asylum in the United States. The applicant has the burden of proving that he/she is eligible for asylum. You will be asked to complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, within one year of your arrival in the United States.
Process for Obtaining Asylum
STEP 1: Asylum-seeker arrives in the United States
STEP 2: Asylum-seeker files Form I-589 with the appropriate USCIS service center within one year of arriving in the U.S. You will receive a confirmation notice when the service center receives the application.
STEP 3: Seeker receives notice that they must go to an Application Support Center to have their fingerprints taken. You will be given a two-week period to get your prints taken at a designated site. Your prints will be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a background check. The FBI screening must take place before your I-589 application is reviewed.
STEP 4: Applicant is then scheduled for an interview with an Asylum Officer. In most cases, you would receive a notice with the date, location, and time of your interview within 21 days after the Service Center received your application.
STEP 5: The applicant is interviewed at one of the eight regional asylum offices or at a USCIS field office. Typically, the interview is within 43 days of the filing date. You may bring an attorney or other representative to the interview. Any other individual, such as a spouse or children, who wishes to receive asylum benefits with you must also be present. It is your responsibility to also bring an interpreter, if necessary.
STEP 6: Asylum officer makes a decision on eligibility; supervising asylum officer reviews this decision. USCIS officers determine if you are eligible to apply for asylum, you meet the legal definition of a refugee, and if you are barred from asylum in any other way.
STEP 7: Applicant receives decision. In most cases, you will receive the decision within two weeks of the interview. This means that the decision will be approximately 60 days from the date of filing the application. The decisions are grant of asylum, recommended approval, referral to an immigration court, notice of intent to deny, or final denial.
If you are initially denied, you will have 16 days to send a rebuttal statement or new evidence regarding the reasons you were denied. The asylum officer may re-examine your eligibility for asylum or grant a final denial at this point.
If you have further questions about the asylum process or a more specific question regarding a particular asylum issue, please examine the resources listed below or contact an immigration attorney.