What is Asylum?

Asylum is a form of protection that allows individuals who are in the United States to remain here, provided that they meet the definition of a refugee and are not barred from either applying for or being granted asylum, and eventually to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident.

 

What is a Refugee?
The Immigration and Nationality Act defines “refugee” in Sec. 101(a)(42) as:

(A) any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country 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, or

(B) in such circumstances as the President after appropriate consultation (as defined in section 207(e) of this Act) may specify, any person who is within the country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, within the country in which such person is habitually residing, and who is persecuted or who has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The term “refugee” does not include any person who 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. For purposes of determinations under this Act, a person who has been forced to abort a pregnancy or to undergo involuntary sterilization, or who has been persecuted for failure or refusal to undergo such a procedure or for other resistance to a coercive population control program, shall be deemed to have been persecuted on account of political opinion, and a person who has a well founded fear that he or she will be forced to undergo such a procedure or subject to persecution for such failure, refusal, or resistance shall be deemed to have a well founded fear of persecution on account of political opinion.

The Affirmative Asylum Process at a Glance
STEP ONE: Asylum-Seeker Arrives in the United States
An asylum-seeker is generally eligible to apply for asylum under INA § 208(a) if he or she:is arriving in or physically present in the United States, and files within one year of arriving in the United States or establishes that an exception applies.

STEP TWO: Asylum-Seeker Applies for Asylum
Asylum-seeker files Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, with the appropriate Service Center within one year of last arrival in the United States (unless an exception applies).

STEP THREE: Applicant is Fingerprinted and Background Security Checks Conducted
Applicants between 14 and 79 years of age receive a notice from the Service Center to go to an Application Support Center or authorized Designated Law Enforcement Agency to have their fingerprints taken.

STEP FOUR: Applicant Receives Interview Notice
In most cases, an applicant will receive a notice stating the date, location, and time of the asylum interview within 21 days after the applicant mailed a complete Form I-589 to the Service Center.

STEP FIVE: Applicant is Interviewed by an Asylum Officer
The applicant is interviewed by an Asylum Officer at either:

one of the eight asylum offices located in Arlington, VA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; Newark (Lyndhurst), NJ; New York (Rosedale), NY; and San Francisco, CA – OR

a district office

In the majority of cases, the applicant is interviewed within 43 days after the filing date. The exception is for those who are interviewed at the district offices. Asylum officers travel to certain district offices to interview applicants who live far from the eight asylum offices.

STEP SIX: Asylum Officer Makes Determination on Eligibility and Supervisory Asylum Officer Reviews the Decision
The Asylum Officer determines whether the applicant:

meets the definition of a refugee in INA § 101(a)(42)(A), and
is barred from being granted asylum under INA § 208(b)(2).
A Supervisory Asylum Officer reviews the Asylum Officer’s decision to determine if it is consistent with the law. Depending on the case, the Supervisory Asylum Officer may refer the decision to Asylum Division Headquarters staff for review.

STEP SEVEN: Applicant Receives Decision
In most cases, the applicant returns to the asylum office to pick up the decision two weeks after the interview was conducted.

The applicant will generally receive the decision 60 days after the filing date.

Longer processing times may be required for an applicant who is currently in valid status, was interviewed at a district office, or whose case is being reviewed by Asylum Division Headquarters staff. The decision is generally mailed to the applicant in these situations.

Cases that are not approved are referred to Immigration Court where an immigration judge will make a de novo or new decision. Cases denied in immigration court may be appealed to the Boad of Immigration Appeals or BIA.