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How to get Asylum in the United States

Posted by attorney Wendy Whitt

Asylum Eligibility

Asylum is a type of protection that allows individuals who are already in the United States to remain here. In order to obtain asylum, you must demonstrate to the United States government that you fear persecution in your native country based upon one or more of the following:

· Race,

· Religion,

· Nationality,

· Membership in a social group, or

· Political opinion

When to File for Asylum

You can file an asylum application if you are at a port of entry or in the United States. You must do so within one year of your arrival to the United States.

You will not be eligible to file an asylum application if you have been in the United States for more than one year. However, you may qualify for an exception to this law if you show:

· Changed circumstances materially affecting your asylum eligibility for asylum; or

· Extraordinary circumstances relating to your delay in filing.

You must still file your asylum application within a reasonable time to qualify for an exception.

Exceptions to the One Year Filing Requirement

You may be able to file an asylum application after one year in the United States if you can prove certain changed or extraordinary circumstances apply. Regardless of your situation, you must still file your asylum application within a reasonable time to qualify for the exception.

Changed circumstances may include:

· Changes in conditions in your country of nationality or, if you are stateless, your country of last habitual residence;

· Changes in your circumstances that materially affect your eligibility for asylum, including changes in applicable U.S. law and activities you become involved in outside the country of feared persecution that place you at risk;

· If you were previously included as a dependent in someone else’s pending asylum application, the loss of the spousal or parent-child relationship to the principal applicant through marriage, divorce, death, or attainment of age 21

Extraordinary circumstances may include:

· Serious illness or mental or physical disability, including any effects of persecution or violent harm suffered in the past, during the 1-year period after your arrival in the US;

· Legal disability, such as your status as an unaccompanied minor or you suffered from a mental impairment, during the 1-year period after your arrival in the US

These lists are not all inclusive, your situation may qualify for an exception.

The Asylum Application Process

These are the general procedures for filing an asylum application through the affirmative asylum process. (They do not apply to those asylum-seekers who are in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge.)

  1. Arrive in the United States;

  2. File an asylum application on Form I-589 within one year;

  3. USCIS conducts fingerprinting and background/security checks;

  4. You will be interviewed at a USCIS Asylum Office or field office (in most cases, you will be interviewed within 43 days after USCIS receives your completed Form I-589);

  5. The Asylum Officer makes a decision as to whether you are eligible for asylum. The Asylum Officer’s decision goes through a review process.

  6. You return to the Asylum Office to pick up the decision (usually two weeks after the asylum officer interviewed you).

If your asylum application is denied, you have thirty-three days to appeal the denial of asylum. Instructions on how to appeal are included in the letter informing the applicant of the decision. The Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington, D.C. hears all appeals of asylum requests.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I still file an asylum application if I am in the United States illegally?

Yes. You may file an asylum application regardless of your immigration status if you are not currently in removal proceedings.

  1. Can I get asylum benefits for my spouse and children?

You may ask to have your spouse and/or any children who are under the age of 21 and unmarried included in your asylum decision if they are in the United States. You should bring these individuals with you to the asylum interview.

  1. If I am granted asylum, will I get a green card?

If USCIS granted you asylum status, you are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) 1 year after receiving your grant of asylum. Your spouse and children are also eligible to apply for a green card if they were admitted to the United States as asylees or were included in your grant of asylum.

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