Asylum in USA

People come to the U.S. each year seeking protection from persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group membership, or political opinion. You can apply for asylum if you’re physically in the U.S. and not a U.S. citizen.

Currently, online filing of Form I-589 is limited to certain affirmative asylum applicants. You can’t file online if you’re:

– In immigration court or Board of Immigration Appeals proceedings.
– An unaccompanied alien child in removal proceedings.
– Required to file by mail with the Asylum Vetting Center, as specified on the Form I-589 webpage.
– Already have a pending Form I-589 with USCIS.

If eligible, you may stay in the U.S. Apply for asylum affirmatively or defensively with Form I-589 within one year of arriving. Visit the Obtaining Asylum in the United States page for more details on filing types. There is no fee for asylum applications.

Types of Asylum in USA

To apply for asylum in the U.S., you must be physically present in the U.S. or be seeking entry into the U.S. at a port of entry.

In the U.S., there are two ways to claim asylum: the affirmative and defensive processes. Affirmative asylum is for those not in removal proceedings, where one applies proactively through USCIS, a part of DHS. If denied, the applicant enters removal proceedings and can request asylum defensively before an immigration judge. More information about the affirmative asylum process is available online.

Defensive asylum applies to those in removal proceedings, filing with an immigration judge at the EOIR in the Department of Justice, essentially as a defense against removal from the U.S. More details on the defensive asylum process are online.

Individuals are in removal proceedings if apprehended in the U.S. or at a U.S. port of entry without proper documents or violating immigration status. This includes those caught by CBP trying to enter without proper documentation, placed in expedited removal, and found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture.

In both processes, individuals have the right to a lawyer. However, unlike in criminal court, the U.S. government doesn’t provide lawyers in immigration court, even if individuals can’t afford one.

Where are asylum seekers coming from?

As of May 2023, the United Nations stated that over 110 million people were forcibly displaced globally due to persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations, with 5.4 million seeking asylum. The majority originate from Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine. In 2021, 45 percent of refugees granted asylum in the United States were from China, El Salvador, Guatemala, Turkey, and Venezuela.

Is There a Deadline for Asylum Applications?

Individuals must generally apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the U.S. In 2018, a federal court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must notify asylum seekers of this deadline, following a class-action lawsuit against the government’s failure to provide adequate notice and a uniform application procedure.

Meeting the one-year deadline is challenging for asylum seekers in both affirmative and defensive processes. Traumatic experiences from detention or travel to the U.S. may leave some unaware of the deadline, while others aware of it face systemic barriers like lengthy backlogs, hindering timely application filing. Often, missing this deadline is the sole reason for denial of an asylum application. In the expedited process, passing a credible fear interview counts as applying for asylum, thus fulfilling the one-year deadline requirement.

What Happens to Asylum Seekers Arriving at the U.S. Border?

From 2004 to March 2020, most noncitizens at U.S. ports of entry or near the border were subjected to expedited removal by DHS, a rapid process for removing certain individuals. This includes credible and reasonable fear screenings to comply with laws against returning individuals to countries where they may face danger.

However, there have been instances where CBP officers did not follow these procedures correctly. Under the Trump administration, asylum seekers faced new policies in 2019 and 2020. Additionally, since March 2020, some have been expelled under Title 42, a pandemic-related policy preventing asylum claims.

In cases where DHS cannot detain a person for a credible fear interview, they are released at the border and given a notice to appear in court. Here, they must go through the defensive asylum process, including filing an asylum application.

Reasonable Fear

Individuals unlawfully re-entering the U.S. after removal or convicted of certain crimes face a reinstatement of removal process. To ensure asylum seekers aren’t removed prematurely, those in this process who fear returning to their country get a “reasonable fear” interview with an asylum officer.

To prove a reasonable fear, individuals must show a likelihood of being tortured or persecuted based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or group membership in the removal country. This standard is higher than the credible fear assessment.

If an asylum officer confirms a reasonable fear, the person is referred to immigration court to seek “withholding of removal” or “deferral of removal,” which protects from future harm but doesn’t lead to permanent residence or citizenship like asylum.

If the officer finds no reasonable fear, the decision can be appealed to an immigration judge. If the judge upholds this decision, the person faces removal. If the judge overturns it, the individual enters removal proceedings to pursue protection.

What is President Biden’s “Asylum Ban”?

The IRC welcomed the end of Title 42, but President Biden’s ‘asylum ban’ restricts asylum seekers who transited through another country to the southern U.S. border. They must have either previously applied for and been denied asylum elsewhere or secured an appointment at a port of entry via the CBP One smartphone app. This policy contradicts President Biden’s campaign pledges to reform inhumane asylum and deportation practices, as it curtails asylum seekers’ legal rights to U.S. protection, often leaving vulnerable individuals in perilous situations.

For assistance or advice on obtaining political asylum in USA, contact our asylum lawyers for a consultation via messenger or by mail or our contact form. We offer comprehensive support, including accompanying you to all authorities and providing expert advice throughout the procedure.

Iryna Berenstein
Associated Partner
Mrs. Berenstein is a distinguished and outstanding lawyer with profound experience and exceptional legal knowledge in the field of International Private Law, Financial Law, Corporate Law, investment regulation, Compliance, Data Protection, and Reputation Management.

Asylum in USA FAQ

How can I get asylum in USA?
You can obtain asylum in the United States through three methods:
  1. The affirmative process
  2. An Asylum Merits Interview following a positive credible fear determination
  3. The defensive process
How long does asylum take in USA?
How long does the affirmative asylum process take? Generally, a decision on your asylum application should be made within 180 days of filing, unless exceptional circumstances apply. For more details on the step-by-step asylum process, visit the Affirmative Asylum Process page.
Are asylum seekers allowed to work USA?
Refugees and asylees are authorized to work indefinitely because their immigration status does not expire.
Is it hard to get asylum in USA?
Asylum seekers face a complex process involving multiple government agencies. Those granted asylum can apply for permanent residency, a path to citizenship, and can also reunite with their spouse and children in the United States.
Can asylum seekers buy house in USA?
Asylum seekers can buy property in the U.S. if they qualify for a mortgage. This includes homes, condos, townhouses, duplexes, apartments, and land for building.