Asylum in America

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. You must apply for asylum within a reasonable time given those circumstances; however, filing for asylum more than one year after your last arrival in the United States can make your case very difficult.

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.

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. 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.

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.

What is the Fee?

There is no government filing fee to apply for asylum.

What Will Be My Status After I Am Granted Asylum?

You will have asylee status. You will receive an I-94 Arrival and Departure record documenting that you are able to remain indefinitely in the United States as an asylee. You will be authorized to work in the United States for as long as you remain in asylee status. You may obtain a photo-identity document from USCIS evidencing your employment authorization by applying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Can Asylum Status Be Terminated?

Yes. Your asylee status may be terminated if you no longer have a well-founded fear of persecution because of a fundamental change in circumstances, you have obtained protection from another country, or you have committed certain crimes or engaged in other activity that makes you ineligible to retain asylum status in the United States. An asylee is not a lawful permanent resident. You may apply for lawful permanent resident status after you have been physically present in the United States for a period of one year after the date you were granted asylum status.

When Can I Apply To Become a Lawful Permanent Resident?

You may apply for lawful permanent resident status after you have been physically present in the United States for a period of one year after the date you were granted asylum status.

Can I Travel Outside the United States?

If you are applying for asylum and want to travel outside the United States, you must receive advance permission before you leave the United States in order to return to the United States. This advance permission is called Advance Parole. If you do not apply for Advance Parole before you leave the country, you will be presumed to have abandoned your application with USCIS and you may not be permitted to return to the United States. If you obtain advance parole and return to your country of feared persecution, you may be presumed to have abandoned your asylum request, unless you can show compelling reasons for the return. If your application for asylum is approved, you may apply for a Refugee Travel Document.

Who Can Help Me?

Applying for asylum is one of the most difficult procedures there is under the immigration law. Careful detail must be taken in all aspects of the application, from drafting the form, to inclusion of evidence, to preparing for the asylum interview. The representation and advice of a skilled immigration lawyer may be well worth the cost.