Asylum Questions and Answers

Asylum is one of the most important parts of immigration law. Come learn more about this central topic.

What is Asylum?


Asylum is a method that immigrants can use to stay legally in the United States if they can demonstrate a subjective fear of going home based on:
1. Race,
2. Religion,
3. Nationality,
4.Political Opinion, or
5. Membership in a Particular Social Group

The application is called an I-589

When can I apply?

You should apply for asylum within one year of entering the United States or soon after your previous legal status expires.

If that 1-year period had passed, can I still apply?

Yes, but you have to be able to show changed circumstances.

What is the process like? How long does it take?

The process of Asylum has three possible routes:

  1. If you have never had prior interactions with Immigration (with the exception of applications with the USCIS) you will first have to apply for asylum with USCIS. This is strictly for people who have never received an NTA and have never been in proceedings. This is called Affirmative Filing. After applying, you will attend an interview at the respective asylum office in the jurisdiction in which your residence falls. The Asylum officer will make one of two determinations. A.) Your asylum will be approved or B.) You application will be denied, and you will then be referred to court for immigration proceedings to argue your case in front of an Immigration Judge.
  2. After you have received an NTA, you will be subject to Immigration Court. During this time, your attorney will inform the court of the forms of relief that you plan to apply for. Following this initial hearing, you will be responsible for filling out the appropriate applications and providing evidence to support your claims to the court. There can be multiple master hearings, before the Individual Hearing, in which the judge will make a decision on the applications filed, and decide which, if any, that he/she will grant.
  3. If you have had a previous deportation and are detained, and you have a fear of returning to your country you should notify the arresting agent that you have a fear and request a fear interview.  During this time, your will be interviewed by an asylum officer to determine if your fear is credible. If they determine the fear is credible, you will then receive an NTA and be subject to Immigration Proceedings, which will be carried out as listed above.

Due to the backlog of cases in Immigration Courts right now, the whole process can take a few years.

Can I apply with my family?

Yes. You can apply with your spouse and any unmarried children under 21 years old if they are in the United States. If they are still in your home country, you can bring them over if your case is approved.

What happens if I don’t go to my hearing?

It is of the highest importance that you go to your hearing, whether you have an attorney or not. If you do not appear, you WILL be ordered removed in your absence. If this happens, it will be difficult to reopen your case.

Do I need an interpreter for the court appearances or the interview?

The court will provide an interpreter in your native language for your hearings. Be sure to be specific about what your best language is; even if it is uncommon or a dialect, an interpreter will be available. For the interview, you are responsible for providing an interpreter. Ideally, it should not be a member of your family.

What benefits do I get if my case is granted? Can I get a Green Card? Work Authorization?

While the case is pending, you can apply for a renewable Work Permit, valid for two years. If the case is approved, you can apply for a Green Card one year later.