How to apply for asylum in The United States?

Throughout history, the so-called “ American dream ” has been the project of many people around the world; especially Latin Americans. Statistics from the United Nations Organization (UN) indicate that about 16% of the US population is an immigrant. If we consider that the territory is inhabited by a total of 329.5 million citizens, then we are talking about more than 50 million foreigners .

United States flag - asylum application

The largest percentage of immigrants come from Spanish-speaking nations, with Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador standing out. And a significant portion of these people are in refugee status. During Donald Trump’s administration, the annual number of petitions was around 15,000; however, since Joe Biden’s administration began, the number has increased to 63,000.

This makes the United States the country with the most immigrants in the world. The reason for this movement is attributed to the excellent quality of life offered there, considering that it has one of the strongest economies on the planet. In this sense, if you need to emigrate from your country due to violence or discrimination, it is possible that one of the best options is the U.S. Read on and discover the steps to follow to achieve it.

US map - asylum application

First considerations to apply for protection in the USA

The entity that governs applications for international protection is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service , known by its acronym in English as USCIS. For its part, the most updated law regarding asylums was published in November 2022; which specifies the uniform procedure mechanism (UPM) , highlighting the following:

  • Obtaining and submitting form I-589 (see here ) to the Executive Office for Immigration Case Review (EOIR), must be done within a maximum period of 365 days after entering the United States.
  • Service of Notice to Appear (NTA) will be issued within 21 days after the I-589 is filed.
  • Review at the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within the established time.
  • Steps to follow after assigning the case to a court.

In other words, the U.S. has a robust standardization for asylum claims, with few exceptions. To increase the chances of receiving a satisfactory response, you must comply with all the requirements and within the determined time limits; it is mandatory to complete the immigration process in person, once you are in the country.

On the other hand, it is important for you to know that USCIS works hand in hand with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), to offer indications of where to go and ask for help; as well as, to ensure that applicants demand their rights and, in addition, comply with their duties while the status is defined. For more information, please contact us by email: .

Who is eligible for asylum?

Knowing whether or not you are eligible to apply for asylum in the United States is essential before starting the process. The law establishes that a refugee is a person who has suffered violent persecution or discrimination based on sexual orientation, political ideology, skin color, religion or membership in a specific social group, as long as no individual’s human rights have been violated.

In this sense, the economic crises that many countries are currently facing are not sufficient support for seeking asylum. However, there are such unfortunate realities as those experienced in Sudan, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which have given rise to the creation of humanitarian programs through Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Access more information: here .

Difference Between Asylum and Refuge

For most nations the terms asylum and refuge are synonymous. However, for the United States, these are two different definitions , despite the fact that the final status of the person will be, in both cases, “refugee” . Let’s see what each one consists of:

  • asylum . It is valid for people who are within the US territory or who announce their admission at one of its official borders. There are no restrictions for any nationality. The process takes place at USCIS.
  • Shelter . It applies to people who, in the same way, have suffered violent persecution or aggressive discrimination events; but, which are located outside the US or its borders. They can be found in any nation, as long as this is not their country of origin. For more information click here . The process is requested through the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).
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Now, in this text we will explain only the steps of applying for asylum . And it is the most efficient way to get an answer and start enjoying the benefits of living in the US.

Types of asylum in the USA

Let us clarify that, in the United States, there are two types of asylum as we will explain below:

  • affirmative asylum . It can be requested by people who are in the territory, regardless of the means used to arrive or the current immigration status. The maximum term to start the process before USCIS is one year, counted from the date of entry to the United States.
  • Defensive Asylum . A court adjudicated by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) will handle this status. It is applicable only for those individuals immersed in removal proceedings from the US. Which can happen in various circumstances, such as:
    • Affirmative Asylum Denial by USCIS
    • Arrest at the regular borders of the country, for lack of legal access documents
    • Detention for entering the country, at unestablished borders

Affirmative asylum procedure

As indicated, the procedure will be carried out at the USCIS offices and it is best to start it during the first month after entering the USA. In this way, you will be able to obtain the interview in the shortest possible time, because the migration and naturalization service (INA) determined, in January 2022, an order of attention. This is:

  • Priority 1 . Interviews that have been rescheduled, either by the applicant or by USCIS.
  • Priority 2 . Requests initiated in a period less than or equal to 21 days.
  • Priority 3 . Applications submitted within a period greater than three weeks.

To process an affirmative asylum in the United States, the steps to be executed would be the following:

Step 1. Request

As established by the UPM, the petitioner must submit the I-589 form together with the application for asylum and the suspension of removal at the nearest USCIS office. It is a total of 12 pages that you will have to complete completely.

Here you will capture your identification data , real and updated address , spouse and children information , detailed situation that causes them to fear returning to your country of origin and signature (download it here ). Find the appropriate office, depending on where you are; consult the addresses and means of delivery in the following link: http s :// .

You will know that the application has been completed when you receive an acknowledgment of receipt and the address of the application support center (ASC) where they will take your fingerprints , free of charge. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will analyze the biometric study to verify the criminal history .

Step 2. Interview notification

After the FBI validates the family group’s fingerprints, they will send you a notice (NTA) to come in for an interview . USCIS is free to assign you to any of its offices, although they will usually select the one closest to your address.

Step 3. Interview

US interview - asylum application

To it, you will have to go with the family members included in the I-589 form. And, depending on what the officer in charge says, they will all be served simultaneously or individually . The interview lasts about an hour and is in English; that is, if you master a different language, you will have to hire a qualified interpreter , over 18 years of age and who is neither your lawyer nor a witness in the case (allowable legal resources).

USCIS will provide the interpreter when the applicant is hearing impaired . On the other hand, if you cannot attend the interview on the scheduled day; You will have to send a letter to the asylum office before the indicated date explaining the reasons that warrant a rescheduling . Although, if for a major reason you could not do it, you will be granted a period of 15 days; otherwise, the case will go to court .

If you decide to go to the interview accompanied by a lawyer , the person will have to fill out and submit the G-28 form ; With it, your legal representative is declared . Finally, do not forget to bring the following:

  • Identity documents.
  • Form I-94, where the entry to the country is registered (if you have it).
  • Photocopy of form I-589.
  • Documents that validate family ties (if applicable).
  • Evidence of the case.
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At the end of the interview you will be given an NTA, which confirms attendance . Verify that the information is correct ; since, it may be useful if the case goes to court. We will explain this situation later.

Step 4. Eligibility

Subsequently, the interviewing officer will meet with your supervisor and together they will assess whether you meet the profile of a person in need of international protection. However, if the answer is negative, you may request an additional review at the central asylum offices.

Step #5. Decision

Interview decision - asylum application

Although a fixed time has not been established; Most often, at the end of two weeks after the interview, USCIS provides the applicant with a decision notice . Some delays could be generated when the paperwork is done in local offices, if the FBI requires more elements of study or if the officers request an additional review .

Types of USCIS Decisions Ι Affirmative Asylum

USCIS has established six types of decisions, but since August 2022 only five options are being worked on . Let’s see what they are and what they consist of:

  • Granting of asylum . It means that you have been admitted for the protection of the USA. You will receive a letter of acceptance, the I-94 form and the complete entry record. This will include registered family members who continue in the country. From that moment, you will be able to process the employment authorization document (EAD) , social security and permanent residence card (valid for travel).
  • Referred to court . You will receive Form I-862, an explanatory letter, and the hearing date in NTA format. Here is a partial denial of the asylum request, because USCIS did not approve the grant; but, he considers that the case should be put in the hands of an immigration judge. This occurs when the applicant and his family are undocumented. It should be noted that this will be an independent claim process.
  • Sent to court . It occurs when USCIS determines that there are discrepancies with the NTA issue dates. A deputy judge will hear the case and notify you of the final decision by mail.
  • Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) . Although rare, it occurs when USCIS considers that the applicant does not meet the refugee profile; but, it has a legal status in the country. Once the decision is delivered to you, you will have 16 days to send to the office that manages the procedure, a letter explaining why you want the asylum claim. In addition to this, they can contact you to add more evidence. Finally, they will give you a final concession or rejection.
  • Final rejection . It is the decision if, after the NOID, you do not receive a response within 16 days or when it indicates that you were not granted asylum. This is a response that cannot be appealed.

Defensive Asylum Case Procedure

As a reminder, in order to qualify for defensive asylum, it is essential that the alien be in removal proceedings before an EOIR immigration court. The case managers will send you in advance a notice of the day of the hearing, which you may attend with a private immigration attorney if you wish. For its part, the U.S. government will be represented by an attorney from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The essential thing at the hearing is that you demonstrate clarity, conviction and compelling evidence so that the judge considers you eligible and, therefore, approves your asylum. Although if you do not meet the refugee profile, you may also opt for a humanitarian permit. The last alternative is to be ordered to leave the country.

Can I work during the asylum process?

Refugee law establishes that employment authorization is not granted to asylum seekers for a period of less than 365 days after filing the petition with USCIS. However, several exceptions provided by Form I-765 have been added ; that allows obtaining a work permit before the indicated time. Some of them are:

  • Legal entry to the country from August 25, 2022.
  • Compliance with the application deadline from arrival in the United States.
  • Attendance, without rescheduling, to scheduled appointments.
  • Case delays attributable to USCIS

Receiving the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is not always possible for applicants; Therefore, it is appropriate to have enough money to stay in the country until the case is decided. Keep in mind that being in the United States will open the doors to personal and professional growth , as it is a free, powerful and democratic nation.

United States democracy and power - Asylum application

Maya Martinez

Legal advisor for immigration processes. In addition to providing support in the legal procedures, I offer integral and informative support in relation to the obligations that are acquired when arriving to a new country.

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