If you are a non-citizen who is currently present in the United States who has been persecuted or fear persecution in your home country based on your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, under the U.S. laws you may qualify to apply for asylum.

Every year thousands of applicants seek asylum protection under the U.S. immigration law, which allows them to lawfully work and live in the United States. If you are granted an asylee status by the government, you may eventually qualify for a path to citizenship. Applying for asylum can be a complex and intimidating process, but with the help of a knowledgeable immigration attorney to guide you through the process, the journey can be less painful.

What are the requirements for filing asylum in the USA?

There are a few requirements that must be satisfied to successfully apply for asylum in the United States. If any one of these requirements is not met, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will reject your application.

First, you must be physically present in the United States. Even if you are facing persecution in your home country or fear that you may suffer persecution, you cannot apply for asylum if you are outside of the United States.

Second, this is an obvious one, but must be mentioned nonetheless. You cannot file for asylum if you are a U.S. citizen. Your citizenship already affords you protection from persecution which is the main protection given to an asylee.

Third, you must have suffered persecution or fear that you will suffer persecution by your home country based on your religion, race, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. In other words, the applicant must satisfy the definition of a refugee under U.S. immigration laws and otherwise be eligible to successfully seek asylum.

Fourth, you must file the asylum application within one year of the date of your last arrival into the United States, subject to certain exceptions. For example, if you were present in the U.S., left the country, then after a brief trip abroad arrived in the U.S. on January 1st, 2023, your one-year clock starts on this day.

If you are unable to file your asylum application within a year of your last arrival, you may be excused for the failure to timely file, by showing changed or extraordinary circumstances and filing within a reasonable time after such circumstances.

Who is eligible for asylum in the United States?

Anyone who is currently present in the United States, not a U.S. citizen, has suffered persecution or fears persecution in his or her home country, and filed the asylum application within one year of the date of the last arrival is eligible to file for asylum. The exception to the one-year rule may apply if you can show your inability to file due to extraordinary or changed circumstances.

Your spouse and children may also be included, as dependents, in the asylum application at the time of initial filing or anytime during the process before a final decision is made. Please note that to qualify as a dependent in the asylum application, your children must be unmarried and under the age of 21.

How to file an asylum application in the United States?

There are two avenues through which an applicant can file for asylum in the United States – affirmatively or defensively.

You may affirmatively file your application with the USCIS by completing Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. The form will ask for information about you, your spouse and children, your background, the persecution or the fear of persecution you face, and the reasons for seeking asylum in the U.S. There is no cost to apply for asylum by filing Form I-589 or to attend the biometrics appointment.

You may file an affirmative asylum application by completing and submitting Form I-589 via mail or online on the USCIS website. However, you may not file online if you are in removal proceedings, are an unaccompanied alien child in removal proceedings, are required to file via mail with the Asylum Vetting Center, or have already submitted Form I-589.

You may also file for asylum defensively, while in removal proceedings, by submitting the application to a U.S.  Immigration Court. Such an application is filed by an applicant who is already in the U.S. and facing removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge.

How much does it cost to seek asylum in the US?

Although the actual filing of your asylum application, Form I-589, does not cost any money, there may be other costs associated with your case. If you hire an attorney to help you with your case, his or her fee may range anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. The actual cost for your asylum case will depend on factors including whether the case is an affirmative or a defensive one, the number of documents, witnesses, and translations to be prepared, or the time and labor required in your case.

How long does it take to get asylum in the USA?

It usually takes 180 days from the filing of your affirmative asylum application for the USCIS to come up with a decision, excluding exceptional circumstances. Generally speaking, the total processing time for an asylum case depends on several factors like your location, USCIS backlog, the complexity of your case, or a need for an appeal. A straightforward case may be resolved within 180 days, while a case with many complexities can take much longer.

Can a person currently on a visitor (B1/B2) or a student (F1) visa apply for asylum?

Yes, you may apply for asylum in the U.S. regardless of your entry visa type as long as you satisfy certain requirements. You must file an asylum application within 1 year of your last arrival regardless of your entry visa type (visitor or student), and you currently cannot be in removal proceedings. If your application is denied, the previous visa status stands. However, if your asylum is denied and at the time you are also out of status, you will be put in a removal proceeding.

You may apply for asylum in the U.S. even if you are currently without any lawful status, as long as you satisfy the physical presence and 1-year requirement.

What are the benefits for asylum seekers in the USA?

An asylum status can confer several benefits to an asylee. If your application is approved, you will receive protection from the persecution that you faced in your home country. Additionally, after approval, you are immediately allowed to legally work in the United States. With an approved asylum status, you do not need a work authorization document and can immediately apply for a social security number.

After 1 year of the asylum grant, you may apply to adjust your status and apply for a green card. You must file Form I-485 for yourself, and individually for every family member who received derivative asylum through you.

If your asylum application is pending for 150 days or more, you may apply for a work permit (Employment Authorization Document) by filing Form I-765. However, Such a delay cannot be caused or requested by you while your asylum application is pending.

Do I need to hire an immigration attorney to file for asylum?

No, you do not need to hire an immigration attorney to file your asylum application. However, navigating U.S. immigration laws by yourself can be complex and intimidating. Oftentimes, the application process takes months or years. Therefore, any mistakes on your application or in the understanding of immigration law can result in denial or delay of your application. An immigration attorney can assess your situation, gather necessary documents, and take an appropriate course of action specific to your case – increasing the likelihood of success.

OKC Immigration Lawyer: Oklahoma Immigration Attorney

Vivid Niroula is an immigration attorney based in Oklahoma City. He has a solid understanding of U.S. immigration laws, provides client-focused services, responds quickly, and offers affordable fees. If you need help with your asylum case or any other immigration issues, please contact us by calling our office at (405) 456-9250, or by filling out the Contact Us Form.