You may reach an asylum lawyer at (202) 234-0899 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Working with the rare knowledge and insight of a former immigration judge, our asylum lawyers have the greatest expertise to help you with your application for asylum or appeal. Contact one of our asylum lawyers at Immigration Solutions Group, PLLC, to evaluate your case and assist you with your application for asylum.
Our asylum lawyers have a track record of success in helping individuals obtain asylum through an “affirmative” application for asylum to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), through a “defensive” application for asylum to an Immigration Judge, or through an appeal to federal court of a previously denied application for asylum. In order to win asylum in the United States, an immigrant must prove he or she is being persecuted because of race, religion, political view, nationality or membership in a particular social group. An applicant for asylum also needs to show that his government is either part of the persecution or unable or unwilling to protect him. The REAL ID Act altered the standards and evidentiary burdens governing asylum, withholding of removal, and other discretionary forms of relief from removal. It requires asylum applicants to demonstrate that one of the enumerated grounds was or will be “at least one central reason” for their persecution, and allows immigration judges to require credible asylum and withholding applicants to obtain corroborating evidence as part of his or her application for asylum.
If you wish to apply for asylum, it is very important to work with a qualified asylum lawyer who can articulate your case along with all the supporting evidence possible for your application for asylum.
You may reach an asylum lawyer at (202) 234-0899 or by emailing email@example.com.
Overview of Asylum
Asylum is defined as a discretionary benefit accorded to certain persons in the United States who demonstrate that they are unable or unwilling to return to their country on account of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. One year after the receipt of asylum status, asylees may apply for lawful permanent residence.
Every year people come to the United States and submit an application for asylum because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Since 2003, the U.S. has granted an average of 11,890 applications for asylum. During that same time, a combined total of 5,927 people from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala who submitted an application for asylum in the U.S. were approved, according to data published by the Department of Homeland Security.
You may only submit an application for asylum if you are arriving in or already physically present in the United States. To submit an application for asylum in the United States, you may ask at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport, or border crossing), or, if you are already in the United States, you may file an application for asylum with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), with the appropriate evidence and at the appropriate Service Center. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status, whether you are here legally or illegally. A qualified asylum lawyer is critical to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case and to put together a strong application for asylum.
You must submit an application for asylum within one year of your last arrival in the United States, unless you can demonstrate that there are changed circumstances that materially affect your eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances directly related to your failure to file within one year. You must submit your application for asylum within a reasonable time given the circumstances. Changed or extraordinary circumstances may include certain changes in the conditions in your country, changes in your own circumstances, and other events.
It is important to work with a qualified asylum lawyer because you will be barred from submitting an application for asylum again if you previously submitted an application 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 from submitting an application for asylum if you could be removed to a safe third-country pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement. Currently, the U.S. has a Safe Third Country agreement with only one country, Canada, and the agreement does not apply to individuals submitting an application for asylum affirmatively. However, you can appeal a denial of asylum. The laws change frequently and this information is not indefinitely up-to-date which is why working with a qualified asylum lawyer is crucial.
If you are eligible to apply for asylum, you may be permitted to remain in the United States, obtain work authorization, bring your family with you, and adjust your asylum status to permanent residence and eventually citizenship.
There is no government filing fee to apply for asylum.
Eligibility for Asylum
Upon submitting an application for asylum to USCIS, an Asylum Officer will determine if you are eligible for asylum 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 country of nationality 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. In both respects, a qualified asylum lawyer is critical.
The Asylum Officer will also consider whether any bars apply to you. 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
- Were 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 a grant of asylum under INA § 208 if you are described in any of the terrorism or security-related inadmissibility grounds at INA § 212(a)(3)(B) or (F).
For more information on bars to asylum, contact one of our asylum lawyers to discuss bars to applying and receiving asylum and how INA § 208(b)(2) applies to your circumstances.
Through the assistance of our asylum lawyers, eligible individuals may submit an application for asylum in the United States in one of two ways, either by submitting an application for asylum “affirmatively” with USCIS or “defensively” while in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge within the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).
Asylum vs. “Withholding of Removal”
Under an asylum claim, even if the applicant would otherwise be eligible for asylum and is not subject to any bars, an application for asylum can be denied at the discretion of USCIS. However, in the exercise of discretion, the danger of persecution must outweigh all other factors. In the absence of adverse factors, asylum should be granted. Unlike asylum, there is no discretion involved when granting “withholding of removal.” If the applicant meets the requirements and is not specifically barred, then the applicant must be granted “withholding of removal” unless the application for asylum is granted.
Time Frames for Applications for Asylum
The law provides in Section 208(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that the initial interview with regard to applications for asylum filed on or after April 1, 1997 should take place within 45 days after the date the application for asylum is filed, and a decision should be made on the application for asylum within 180 days after the date the application is filed, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
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 in order to conduct these interviews.
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
The filing date is the date the complete application for asylum was received at the Service Center.
Applicant’s for asylum receives:
Applicant for asylum is interviewed at one of the eight asylum offices, unless applicant lives at a significant distance from an asylum office.
Majority of applicants for asylum return two weeks after the interview to pick up the decisions on their applications, including referrals to the Immigration Court for final determination.
Applicants for asylum whose cases have been referred to the Immigration Court receive a decision on their applications.
* Asylum office will not conduct an interview on your application until you have had your fingerprints taken in accordance with notice instructions.
Employment Authorization during Application for Asylum Processing and After Approval
You cannot apply for permission to work (employment authorization) in the United States at the same time you submit an application for asylum. However, you may apply for employment authorization if 150 days have passed since you filed your complete application for asylum, excluding any delays caused by you (such as a request to reschedule your interview) and only if no decision has been made on your application for asylum.
If your application for asylum is granted, you may work immediately. Asylees are advised to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for identification or other purposes, but an EAD is not necessary to work if you are application for asylum has been granted.
There is no fee to apply for your first EAD if you have a pending application for asylum or if you have been granted asylum.
Brining Your Family under Asylum
If your application for asylum has been approved, you may petition to bring your spouse and children to the United States. To include your child on your application for asylum, the child must be under 21 and unmarried.
You must file the petition within two years of being granted asylum unless there are humanitarian reasons to excuse this deadline. There is no fee to file this petition.
Travel and Readmission during Asylum Process
If an asylee plans to depart the United States, he or she must obtain permission to return to the United States before departure by obtaining a Refugee Travel Document (RTD). The asylee’s derivatives, if any, will also have to obtain refugee travel documents before leaving the United States. A Refugee Travel Document may be used for temporary travel abroad and is required for readmission to the United States as an asylee. If an asylee does not obtain a Refugee Travel Document in advance of departure, he or she may be unable to re-enter the United States, or the asylee may be placed in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge.
Filing for Permanent Residence (Green Card)
You may apply for a green card one year after your application for asylum has been granted. You must submit a separate application packet for yourself and, if applicable, for each family member who received derivative asylum based on your case.
Spike in Asylum Cases in the United States
Applications for asylum in the United States have nearly quadrupled between 2008 and 2013, mostly due to claims by immigrants coming from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, according to internal figures from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) obtained by the Associated Press. USCIS received more than 19,119 applications for asylum through the end of May 2013. About 2/3 of the applications for asylum have come from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. So far this year, more than 12,400 applications for asylum have come from South Texas, compared to about 3,400 in 2009, according to Langlois’ testimony. The agency anticipates receiving more than 28,600 applications for asylum by the end of the fiscal year. During the 2009 budget year, the agency received just 5,369 applications for asylum. The spike in applications for asylum from Central Americans can be attributed to reports of increased drug trafficking, violence and overall rising crime in those countries. The jump in applications for asylum coincides with a spike in arrests of illegal borders crossers in the same area. At the end of May, Border Patrol agents in the area had apprehended more than 90,000 would-be immigrants. More than half of those people were from countries other than Mexico, primarily Central America. That region, now the busiest Border Patrol sector along the Mexican border, started to see a spike in Central American immigrants during the 2012 budget year. The spike in applications for asylum reinforces the need to use one of our qualified asylum lawyers to ensure your application for asylum is well corroborated and credible.
U.S. Asylum Law
The United States has a long history of providing humanitarian protection to refugees and other vulnerable individuals. The U.S. is party to the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention against Torture (CAT), which obligate contracting states to abide by the principle of non-refoulement — to refrain from returning individuals to countries where they fear certain types of harm. The obligations under the Protocol and the CAT are implemented through various mechanisms, all of which incorporate the principle of non-refoulement. For example, individuals may submit an application for asylum in the United States in one of two ways, either by submitting an application for asylum “affirmatively” with USCIS or “defensively” while in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge within the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).
The legal provisions governing applications for asylum are codified in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). For the part of the law concerning applications for asylum, please see INA § 208. Rules concerning eligibility requirements and procedures to be followed by applicants and the government are incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 8 CFR § 208. Asylum officers also rely on case law to adjudicate asylum claims. Administrative decisions made by the Board of Immigration Appeals can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir.
Individuals may submit an application for asylum in the United States in one of two ways, either by submitting an application for asylum “affirmatively” with USCIS or “defensively” while in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge within the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).
“Affirmative” Applications for Asylum
In general, any individual present in the United States and not in removal proceedings may file an affirmative application for asylum with USCIS. Affirmative applications for asylum require an in-depth, in-person interview of the principal asylum applicant. This interview is conducted by specially trained Asylum Officers. These officers are a professional cadre within USCIS, dedicated full-time to the adjudication of asylum claims. They are extensively trained in national security issues, the security and law enforcement background check process, eligibility criteria, country conditions, making proper credibility determinations, and fraud detection.
The Asylum Officer fully explores the applicant’s persecution claim, considers country of origin information and other relevant evidence submittied by the asylum lawyer or by the applicant directly, assesses the applicant’s credibility and completes required security and background checks. The Asylum Officer then determines whether the individual is eligible to grant the application for asylum and then drafts his or her decision. Supervisors review 100 percent of Asylum Officers’ cases prior to issuance of a final decision. If the Asylum Officer does not grant the application for asylum, in most cases the applicant is referred to removal proceedings for a hearing before an Immigration Judge, including a decision on the asylum claim and any other claims for relief from removal.
“Defensive” Applications for Asylum
Individuals subject to deportation and who have been placed “in removal proceedings” receive a full hearing in Immigration Court, which are operated by the Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), and have the right to request certain types of relief from removal, including asylum, before an Immigration Judge.
The Expedited Removal and Credible Fear Processes
Prior to the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), individuals seeking admission to the U.S at a port of entry or those apprehended attempting to enter the United States unlawfully were able to present their applications for asylum directly to an Immigration Judge. IIRIRA, however, amended the INA to allow for the expedited removal of individuals who lack required documentation or possess improper documentation at ports of entry. Under delegated authority, DHS also applies the expedited removal process to individuals who are present without admission and encountered by an immigration officer within 100 air miles of the United States border, and were not physically present in the United States for the 14-day period immediately before their arrest, and to aliens unlawfully arriving in the United States by sea.
The expedited removal provision was designed to deter individuals from entering the United States illegally and to streamline what had been a lengthy, resource-intensive process. Individuals subject to expedited removal are immediately removable from the United States and are generally not entitled to a full hearing before an Immigration Judge. To ensure that the United States maintains compliance with its international treaty obligations related to non-refoulement, however, individuals subject to expedited removal who indicate a fear of persecution or torture or who indicate an intent to apply for asylum are referred to a specially trained USCIS asylum officer who conducts a detailed screening for potential asylum eligibility. Individuals who are able to establish a credible fear of persecution or torture to an asylum officer may then submit an application for asylum defensively in removal proceedings.
The credible fear screening process employed by USCIS has some similarities to the affirmative asylum process described previously, but is a separate and distinct process. For example, individuals in expedited removal proceedings, including those who indicate a fear of persecution or who indicate an intention to submit an application for asylum, are subject to mandatory detention and therefore credible fear interviews are conducted by USCIS officers while the individual is detained. During the credible fear interview, individuals are questioned regarding their biographic information, their fears of persecution or torture, and whether they may be subject to a mandatory bar to asylum. USCIS officers elicit information during the interview to develop the record regarding the applicability of the mandatory bars. USCIS also conducts security checks including preliminary biographic (TECS) and biometric (US-VISIT) checks during the credible fear process to assess identity and inform lines of questioning. Upon completion of the credible fear interview, and while the individual remains detained, the USCIS Asylum Officer determines whether or not the individual established a credible fear of persecution or torture.
The Credible Fear Standard
The credible fear screening standard, defined by statute, was designed to be a low legal threshold. In order to establish a credible fear of persecution or torture, the Asylum Officer must find that a “significant possibility” exists that the individual could establish eligibility for asylum or withholding or deferral of removal. The purpose of this screening standard is to dispose of claims where there is no significant possibility of success, while not foreclosing possibly viable claims. This procedural safeguard allows the expedited removal process to act as an efficient mechanism in maintaining border security while ensuring compliance with the United States’ international treaty obligations regarding non-refoulement.
Historically, only a small percentage of individuals placed in expedited removal proceedings have expressed a fear of return. Throughout the years the percentage of individuals placed into expedited removal who express a fear of return has ranged from 2 percent to 13 percent. Expedited removal proceedings have been effective and saved significant resources since their implementation in 1997 while also ensuring that the United States upholds its international treaty obligations regarding non-refoulement.
Credible Fear Determinations
Like affirmative asylum decisions, 100 percent of credible fear determinations undergo supervisory review. Individuals who are ultimately found not to have a credible fear are subject to immediate removal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), unless they request a limited review of the Asylum Officer’s determination by an Immigration Judge. If the individual establishes a credible fear of persecution or torture, USCIS issues a Notice to Appear (NTA) and the individual is placed into removal proceedings before an EOIR Immigration Judge at which point he or she can seek asylum or other forms of relief as a defense to removal. USCIS confirms initiation of additional security checks and those results are also provided to, and considered by, ICE and the Immigration Judge. Information used to make a determination on the individual’s claim, including the interview notes, biographic information, completed security checks and decisional documents, are placed into the individual’s file and are available for use by ICE attorneys during removal proceedings. The Immigration Judge ultimately determines whether the individual is eligible for asylum or any other requested forms of relief.
During the pendency of the removal proceedings, certain individuals are entitled to a custody hearing before the Immigration Judge. For arriving aliens, DHS has adopted parole standards to determine whether individuals should be paroled into the United States during the pendency of the removal proceedings.
Background Checks in the Affirmative Asylum Process
Before individuals may be granted asylum, they must all establish identity and pass all requisite national security and law enforcement background security checks. Each asylum applicant must pass extensive biometric and biographic security checks. Both law enforcement and intelligence checks are required – including through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and other agencies.
In conducting background screenings, asylum applicants are first checked against the USCIS Central Index System to determine if an applicant has previously been issued an alien number. They are also screened against TECS — Custom and Border Protection’s primary law enforcement and anti-terrorism data base system which contains enforcement, inspection, and intelligence records. For applicants ages 14 through 79, an FBI search is conducted of the person’s name(s) and date(s) of birth. A USCIS Application Support Center also takes the 10 fingerprints and biometrics (signature, photograph and index print) of asylum applicants between the ages of 12 years and 9 months and 75 years. The FBI electronically searches the databases within the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, the FBI’s Criminal Master File. The 10-prints are also electronically submitted to the US-VISIT database, where they are enrolled and associated with matching fingerprint records. This system is used to confirm identity, determine previous interactions with immigration officials, and detect imposters. In addition, a biometric check against the DOD Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) is conducted for certain cases. Finally, the Asylum Division is also piloting the screening of asylum information against the National Counterterrorism Center’s terrorism holdings.
One of the best places to begin research in an unfamiliar area of law is with a treatise or handbook. This list includes treatises and handbooks that should be of use to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.
- Law of Asylum in the United States, by Deborah E. Anker (2011)
- Asylum Primer: A Practical Guide to U.S. Asylum Law and Procedure, by Regina Germain (2010)
- Kurzban’s Immigration Law Sourcebook: A Comprehensive Outline and Reference Tool, by Ira Kurzban (1990-present)
- Affirmative Asylum Procedures Manual (2011 edition), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate Asylum Division (online version available at USCIS’s website)
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Adjudicator’s Field Manual, by USCIS (online redacted version available at USCIS’s website)
- How to Get a Green Card, by Ilona Bray (2012).
Case Law and Administrative Guidance
When dealing with asylum law, particularly regarding a case that may be contested by the government, finding administrative guidance promulgated by USCIS and case law produced by judicial bodies such as the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is essential. Information about these decisions can be found in the following resources:
- Interpreter Releases (1935-present)
- Bender’s Immigration Case Reporter (1985-present)
- Asylum Case Law Sourcebook: Master Index and Case Abstracts for U.S. Court Decisions (1994-present)
- Administrative Decisions Under Immigration & Nationality Laws (1940-2000)
- USCIS Administrative Appeals Office Decisions
- Attorney General and BIA Precedent Decisions
- USCIS Policy and Procedure Memos related to Asylum
Below are, one, country research, which is absolutely crucial when trying to determine or prove that there is a demonstrated persecution of certain groups of people in a country and two, general information about asylum law, including handbooks, manuals, and up-to-the-minute news sources.
- Human Rights Reports, U.S. Department of State
- Refworld Country Information Collection, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- World Report 2013 – Country Chapters, Human Rights Watch
- Country Studies, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress (offers more of a historical view than current view)
- Learn About Human Rights, Amnesty International
General Information About Asylum Law
- Obtaining Asylum in the United States, by USCIS
- Pro Bono Representation Manual: An Overview of Asylum Law and Procedure, by The Advocates for Human Rights (2010)
- Basic Procedural Manual for Asylum Representation Affirmatively and in Removal Proceedings, by the National Immigrant Justice Center (2009)
- Asylum Law, Asylum Seekers and Refugees: A Primer and The Asylum Process, by TRAC Immigration Project
- For Pro Se Litigants, by the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (2007)
- CALS Asylum Case Research Guide, by the Center for Applied Legal Studies, Georgetown University Law Center
- Avoiding Immigration Related Scams, by USCIS
- The Asylumist Blog
- Asylumlaw.org (contains helpful information, but appears to have stopped updating in 2009)