Yes, you should talk with an asylum lawyer before filing the application
The concept of asylum seems simple: legal entry into the US in order to flee personal or political persecution. However, the paperwork and bureaucratic processes that accompany this component to American immigration law can be daunting – particularly for people enduring unspeakable hardship in their home country.
The Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, also known as Form I-589, is available from US Citizenship and Immigration Services. After this 12-page document is completed, it must be filed with the correct service center depending on the your location at the time of application. Working with an experienced asylum lawyer during the process can help avoid any mistakes, misunderstandings, or wrong turns.
Filing the asylum application
An asylum attorney will be familiar with the entire process, beginning with filling out and filing the asylum application. Form I-589 begins with a lengthy review of your personal information, including current residence and passport status, native language, and nationalities since birth. From there, the application asks for information about your spouse, children, employment history, residential history, and ancestry.
From there, you will be required to describe the details of persecution occurring in your home country, including:
What has happened to cause you to fear return;
Dates of when the incidents occurred;
Identification of who or what (i.e., military regime) caused your mistreatment or threats;
Why you believe the mistreatment occurred;
Why you believe the mistreatment will continue upon return to your home country;
Whether you have ever been arrested, imprisoned, interrogated, sentenced, convicted, or accused of a crime in any country other than the US.
In this section of the application, the specificity of the answers can make the difference between approval or denial, and an experienced immigration lawyer can help ensure you properly and thoroughly describe the ongoing abuses with as much detail as possible.
Choosing an asylum attorney
In the United States, attorneys generally practice within a few "niche" areas of the law. Some lawyers practice family law (such as divorce) while others concentrate on corporate matters (such as bankruptcy). Consequently, immigration law is considered a specified area of the law that only a select group of practitioners focus on in their daily practice.
If you are seeking asylum into the United States, you should choose a lawyer who regularly practices immigration law and is experienced with the immigration court systems. An asylum lawyer should either be fluent in a language other than English, or have access to well-respected interpreters who can help the lawyer communicate in other languages.
You should also be prepared with several questions for their attorney in order to help streamline the representation:
How much the attorney will charge to help with your asylum application;
How long it will take for your application to be reviewed;
Whether the attorney will help with any additional forms, or if he or she will assist with an appeal if necessary;
Whether the attorney will appear on your behalf in immigration court if a proceeding is required.
A quality asylum lawyer should be able to offer comprehensive representation to meet your needs from the initial application to the final decision.