How to apply for Asylum?

Generally, an asylum applicant must prove that he/she has a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on his/her race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion or national origin. Once granted asylum the person is called an Asylee.

Individuals inside the U.S. may apply for asylum in one of two ways:

  1. Affirmative Asylum:The application is submitted “affirmatively” by mailing it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which will then schedule an interview with an asylum officer in one of eight Asylum Offices in the USA.
  2. Defensive Asylum:The application is submitted “as a way to prevent deportation when an asylum seeker is in removal proceedings”. In defensive cases, an Immigration Judge decides whether to grant the applicant asylum status or not.

The application must be submitted within one year after entering the United States, otherwise the person will be found automatically ineligible. There are a number of exceptions to this rule, which can be considered if you fall out of filing time. A person can apply for asylum, EVEN IF he does not have any legal immigration status in the USA (for example, the status has expired).

An asylum application usually consists of the following:

  • the actual official form for asylum;
  • applicant’s personal Affidavit (your testimony explaining the reasons of seeking asylum, the reasons for your fear of returning to your home country, the country conditions, the political situation, etc.);
  • supporting documentation for claim;
  • passport/ identity documents;
  • photos;
  • certificates of birth/marriage;
  • other documentation.

It should be noted that each case is unique and the list of documents will vary.

What determines the success of your asylum application?

  • individual circumstances, experiences of the applicant, and country conditions;
  • how well the case is prepared and documented;
  • the amount of harm (persecution) that have already resulted and the harm that would or might result;
  • how the applicant is prepared for the asylum interview (must be found credible and genuine);
  • policies of the US towards applicants from particular countries; and
  • other factors.

What happens after your application submitted?

After the asylum application is accepted by USCIS, the person can legally remain in the country while his or her application is pending. A person may apply for an Advance Parole at this time if he needs to leave and enter USA. However, traveling to his native country is not recommended as this may weaken the credibility of stated in Asylum application fear of persecution in that country.

After changes in the priorities for interview scheduling, published on January 29, 2018, it is expected that the applicant will receive an interview notice in the order “from new to old” (discussed above). In reality, time vary depending on the workload of the departments where such applications are processed.

If everything goes well at the asylum interview, asylum will be granted and a written notice will be mailed in a few weeks. If the asylum is not granted, the case will be referred to Immigration Court, where the applicant gets another chance to present his or her case before an Immigration Judge. An Immigration Judge will schedule the day of the main hearing. Depending on the workload of a particular immigration court, the hearing will take place no earlier than one year later.

An asylum applicant can apply for a work authorization (EAD) within 150 days from the date of filing the initial asylum application.

If asylum is denied by an Immigration Judge, the applicant may file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals, located in Falls Church, VA.

What checks will applicants be subjected to?

Applicants for asylum must be fingerprinted and have to pass verification by all relevant US authorities, including FBI, INS, and also pass verification through the State Department and other databases. The US authorities need to check if there are any reasons why applicants may not be allowed in the United States, for example, because of their criminal history.

Can I apply for US permanent residence (green card) after I get Asylee or Refugee status?

Refugee or Asylee may apply for permanent residency in the United States 1 year after being accepted as refugee or granted asylum. Refugee is required by law to apply for permanent resident status, Asylee is not required, but have the right to do so. Applicants must meet the basic requirements for their category in order to receive a green card. You can find these requirements on the official USCIS website by clicking on the link below.