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Nov 06, 2023 | Ralph Thomassaint Joseph

How to Apply for Asylum in the United States

According to the UN Refugee Agency UNCHR, asylum is “a form of protection which allows an individual to remain in the United States instead of being removed (deported) to a country where he or she fears persecution or harm.”

Asylum is a legal status that allows individuals who have fled their home country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group to remain in the United States.

To apply for asylum in the United States, individuals must be physically present in the country, either at a port of entry or after entering the country without authorization. Additionally, they must apply within one year of their last entry into the country unless they can demonstrate changed circumstances that materially affect their eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances that prevented them from filing within the one-year time limit.

Any individual, regardless of their nationality or immigration status, can apply for asylum in the United States if they meet the criteria for eligibility. However, not all asylum applications are granted, and the eligibility criteria are subject to interpretation by immigration officials and courts.

What makes someone eligible for asylum in the U.S.? 

Here are some factors that asylum officers will consider to determine if an applicant is eligible for asylum:

  • Credibility: The asylum officer will consider the credibility of the applicant’s testimony and any supporting evidence they provide.
  • Timeliness: applicants must apply for asylum within one year of their arrival in the United States unless they can demonstrate an exception to the deadline.
  • Persecution and nexus: Applicants must have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country, including whether the harm they fear rises to the level of persecution. The persecution must be due to the applicant’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
  • Changed Circumstances: If the conditions in the applicant’s home country have changed since they left, the asylum officer will consider whether these changes have affected the applicant’s eligibility for asylum.
  • Criminal Background: an applicant with a criminal record may not be eligible for asylum. However, having a criminal record does not necessarily mean an applicant will be ineligible for asylum.

What is the timeframe for applying for asylum in the USA?

To apply for asylum, you must file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If you live in New York, you will file your application with the USCIS California Service Center.

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

California Service Center

P.O. Box 10881

Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-0881

FedEx, UPS, or DHL:

USCIS California Service Center

Attn: I-589

24000 Avila Rd. 2nd Floor, Room 2312,

Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

To be accepted in your Form I-589, you must provide a clear explanation of why you are applying for asylum and the necessary materials. Remember to sign the form.

The timeframe for filing an asylum application is within one year of the individual’s arrival in the United States. However, there are some exceptions to this deadline. For example, if you can demonstrate changed circumstances that affect their eligibility for asylum, you can apply after the one-year deadline. Additionally, people with extraordinary circumstances preventing them from filing within one year can apply after the deadline.

The consequences of missing the asylum deadline can be severe. You must seek legal advice if you missed the deadline or are unsure about your eligibility for asylum.

How does the asylum interview process work?

The asylum interview is a crucial part of the asylum application process in the United States. The interview is conducted by an asylum officer trained to assess the credibility of the applicant’s claim and determine whether they qualify for asylum.

During the interview, the asylum officer will ask the applicant about their background, the reasons for their fear of persecution or harm in their home country, and any other relevant information about their case. The asylum officer may also ask follow-up questions to clarify or expand on the applicant’s answers.

Applicants should expect to respond honestly to the asylum officer’s questions. They may also be asked to provide evidence to support their claims, such as medical records, police reports, or letters from witnesses. Therefore, applicants must be prepared with relevant documentation and review their application beforehand to ensure consistency with their responses during the interview.

Additionally, applicants should know that the asylum interview can be lengthy and stressful. Therefore, it is important to remain calm and focused throughout the interview and to answer questions truthfully and to the best of their ability. Applicants may also have the right to have an interpreter present during the interview if they are not fluent in English.

After the interview, the asylum officer will review the applicant’s case and decide whether to grant or deny asylum. 

If the officer decides to grant asylum, the applicant can remain in the United States and apply for certain benefits. However, if the officer denies the application, the applicant may be subject to removal from the United States, although they may have the right to appeal the decision.

If you think about applying for asylum, consult a lawyer. Visit our guide about pro bono and low-cost lawyers in New York. 

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