- Who is Eligible to Apply?
Asylum may be granted to people who are arriving in or already physically present in the United States. To apply for asylum in the United States, you may ask for asylum at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport, or border crossing), or file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, at the appropriate Service Center within one year of your arrival in the United States. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status, whether you are in the United States legally or illegally.
You must apply for asylum within one year of your last arrival in the United States, but you may apply for asylum later than one year if there are changed circumstances that materially affect your eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances directly related to your failure to file within one year. These may include certain changes in the conditions in your country, certain changes in your own circumstances, and certain other events. For a non-exhaustive list of circumstances that may be considered changed or extraordinary circumstances, see 8 CFR § 208.4. You must apply for asylum within a reasonable time given those circumstances. See Ineligibility to Apply for Asylum.
You will be barred from applying for asylum if you previously applied for asylum and were denied by the Immigration Judge or Board of Immigration Appeals, unless you demonstrate that there are changed circumstances which materially affect your eligibility for asylum. You will also be barred if you could be removed to a safe third country pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement. See INA § 208(a)(2) and Ineligibility to Apply for Asylum.
How Do I Apply?
To apply for asylum, you will need to complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, and follow the instructions carefully. The form I-589 is available here. Forms are also available by clicking on the link, by calling the forms request line at 1-800-870-3676, or by submitting a request through our forms by mail system. The table below summarizes where you will need to file your Form I-589. See 8 CFR § 208.4(b).
|Circumstance||Where to File Your Form I-589|
Can I Still Apply For Asylum Even If I Am Illegally in the United States?
Yes, you may apply even if you are here illegally. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status as long as you file your application within one year of your last arrival or demonstrate that you are eligible for an exception to that rule based on changed circumstances or extraordinary circumstances, and that you filed for asylum within a reasonable amount of time given those circumstances. Can I Apply For Asylum Even If I Was Convicted of a Crime?
Yes, you may apply. However, you may be barred from being granted asylum depending on the crime. See INA § 208(b). You must disclose any criminal history on your Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, and at your asylum interview. Failure to disclose such information may result in your asylum claim being referred to the Immigration Court, and possible fines or imprisonment for committing perjury. What About My Spouse and Children?
You must list your spouse and all your children on your Form I-589 regardless of their age, marital status, whether they are in the United States, or whether or not they are included in your application or filing a separate asylum application.
You may ask to have included in your asylum decision your spouse and/or any children who are under the age of 21 and unmarried, if they are in the United States. This means that, if you are granted asylum, they will also be granted asylum status and will be allowed to remain in the United States incident to your asylum status. However, if you are referred to the Immigration Court, they will also be referred to the court for removal proceedings. You should refer to the instructions in Form I-589 for information on the documents you will be required to submit establishing your family relationships, such as marriage certificates and birth certificates.
Children who are married and/or children who are 21 years of age or older at the time you file your asylum application must file separately for asylum by submitting their own asylum applications (Form I-589).
Once you are granted asylum, you may petition to bring your spouse and/or children (unmarried and under the age of 21 as of the date you filed the asylum application, as long as your asylum application was pending on or after August 6, 2002) to the United States or to allow those already here, who were not included in your asylum decision, to remain incident to your asylum status. Please see Grant of Asylum for more information. What Happens if My Child Turns 21 After I Have Filed My Asylum Application?
Under the Child Status Protection Act, signed into law by President Bush on August 6, 2002, your child will continue to be classified as a child if he or she turned 21 years of age after your asylum application was filed but while it was pending. Your child must have been unmarried and under 21 years of age on the date that you filed your I-589. The “filing date” is the date that USCIS received your application.
There is no requirement that your child have been included as a dependent on your asylum application at the time of filing, only that your child be included prior to the decision made on your claim. This means that you may add to your asylum application an unmarried son or daughter who is 21 years of age, but who was 20 at the time you filed your asylum application. What is the Fee?
There is no fee to apply for asylum. How Does The Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge Determine If I Am Eligible for Asylum?
The Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge will determine if you are eligible by evaluating whether you meet the definition of a refugee. The definition, which can be found in section 101(a)(42)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), states that a refugee is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to and avail himself or herself of the protection of his or her home country or, if stateless, country of last habitual residence because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The determination of whether you meet the definition of a refugee will be based on information you provide on your application and during an interview with an Asylum Officer or at a hearing before an Immigration Judge.
The Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge will also consider whether any bars apply. You will be barred from being granted asylum under INA § 208(b)(2) if you:
- Ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion
- Were convicted of a particularly serious crime (includes aggravated felonies)
- Committed a serious nonpolitical crime outside the United States
- Pose a danger to the security of the United States
- Firmly resettled in another country prior to arriving in the United States (see 8 CFR § 208.15 for a definition of “firm resettlement”)
You will also be barred from being granted asylum under INA § 208 if you are inadmissible under INA § 212(a)(3)(B) or removable under INA § 237(a)(4)(B) because you:
- Have engaged in terrorist activity;
- Are engaged in or are likely to engage after entry in any terrorist activity (a consular officer or the Attorney General knows, or has reasonable grounds to believe, that this is the case);
- Have, under any circumstances indicating an intention to cause death or serious bodily harm, incited terrorist activity;
- Are a representative of
- a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the Secretary of State under section 219 of the INA, or
- a political, social, or other similar group whose public endorsement of acts of terrorist activity the Secretary of State has determined undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities;*
- Are a member of a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the Secretary of State under section 219 of the INA, or which you know or should have known is a terrorist organization;
- Have used a position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity, or to persuade others to support terrorist activity or a terrorist organization, in a way that the Secretary of State has determined undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities.*
*These two categories were added by the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT Act, P.L. 107-56, October 26, 2001), which was passed in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. How Long Does the Process Take?
The time frames below apply only if you will be scheduled for an interview at one of the eight asylum offices. Time frames vary for those who live far from an asylum office because asylum officers must travel to other offices in order to conduct the long-distance interviews.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides in Section 208(d)(5) that the initial interview on asylum applications filed on or after April 1, 1997 should take place within 45 days after the date the application is filed, and a decision should be made on the asylum application within 180 days after the date the application is filed, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
|Applicant files I-589 at the Service Center||Within 21 days of the filing date||Within 43 days of the filing date||Within 60 days of the filing date||Within 180 days of the filing date|
Where Can I Find the Law?
The legal foundation for the Asylum Program comes from the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). For the part of the law concerning asylum, please see INA § 208 (Asylum). You can also link here to the Immigration and Nationality Act. Rules published in the Federal Register explain the eligibility requirements and procedures to be followed by applicants and the government. These rules are incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 8 CFR § 208. Asylum officers also rely on case law to decide asylum claims. Administrative decisions made by the Board of Immigration Appeals can be found at BIA Decisions or http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir. See Sources of Authority [Sources of Authority.doc] for a general overview of the sources of law that asylum officers consider when adjudicating asylum claims. Where Can I Find the Forms?
The following forms can be found by clicking the links below, by calling the Forms request line at 1-800-870-3676, or by submitting a request through the forms by mail system:
- Form I-589 (Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal)
- Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document)
- Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
- Form I-730 (Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition)
- Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)
- Form AR-11 (Change of Address)
- Form G-28 (Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative)
Can Anyone Help Me?
You have a right to provide your own legal representation at an asylum interview and during immigration proceedings before the Immigration Court, at no cost to the United States Government. You may obtain a list of pro bono (free or reduced cost) attorneys or community-based, non-profit organizations that may be available to assist you by:
- viewing our webpage that provides information on free legal advice;
- calling the forms request line at 1-800-870-3676;
- visiting the U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review website at http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir/statspub/raroster.htm and http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir/probono/states.htm, or
- contacting the district office or asylum office near your home. Please see our field offices home page for more information on contacting our offices.
Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) may be able to assist you in identifying persons to help you complete your Form I-589. The current address of the UNHCR is:
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1775 K Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006
Telephone: (202) 296-5191
- USCIS sends a copy of your Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, to the U.S. Department of State.
- USCIS sends your biographical information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
- USCIS checks your biographical information against law enforcement databases.
When Will I Need To Be Fingerprinted?
After the Service Center receives your completed Form I-589, the Service Center will send you a notice, if you are between 14 and 79 years of age, to go to an Application Support Center or authorized Designated Law Enforcement Agency to have your fingerprints taken. You are exempt from the fingerprint fee. The fingerprints will be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a background/security check. The FBI will send those results to USCIS. Your spouse and children for whom you are asking for derivative asylum status will also need to be fingerprinted if they are between 14 and 79 years of age. Additional information about the fingerprinting process can be found on the Fingerprints webpage, Application Support Centers webpage (for hours and locations), or by calling the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. Will I Be Required to Undergo Any Other Criminal or Security Checks?
Yes. Every individual who applies for asylum will be subject to a background/security check. Depending on the results of the mandatory check, you may not be eligible for a final grant of asylum. Your application may be referred to the Immigration Judge, and you may be placed in removal proceedings in Immigration Court.
The background/security check consists of the following: