The legal provisions governing the Asylum Program are codified in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). For the part of the law concerning 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.
Yes, you may apply. However, you may be barred from being granted asylum depending on the crime. For more information about criminal bars to asylum, see INA § 208(b). You must disclose any criminal history on your Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal and at your asylum interview. Failure to disclose such information may result in your asylum claim being referred to the Immigration Court and possible fines or imprisonment for committing perjury. For more detailed information on bars to receiving asylum, see “Bars to Applying for and Receiving Asylum”.
You have a right to bring a lawyer or representative to your asylum interview and to immigration proceedings before the Immigration Court, at no cost to the United States Government. You may obtain a list of pro bono (free or reduced cost) attorneys and community-based, non-profit organizations that may be available to assist you by:
- calling the forms request line at 1-800-870-3676;
- contacting the USCIS field office or asylum office near your home.
Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) may be able to assist you in identifying persons to help you complete your Form I-589. The current address of the UNHCR is:
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1775 K Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006
Telephone: (202) 296-5191
There is no fee to apply for asylum.
To apply for asylum, you will need to complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. Forms are available by clicking on the link to Form I-589 below or by calling the forms request line at 1-800-870-3676. The table below explains where to file your Form I-589. See 8 CFR § 208.4(b). For more information on applying for asylum, see “Obtaining Asylum in the United States: Two Paths” and “The Affirmative Asylum Process” in the links below.
Where to File Your Form I-589
Applying for asylum for the first time and have not been placed in removal proceedings in Immigration Court
USCIS Service Center that has jurisdiction over your place of residence.
Previously applied for and were denied asylum by INS or USCIS
Asylum Office having jurisdiction over your place of residence.
Currently in removal proceedings in Immigration Court
Immigration Court having jurisdiction over your place of residence.
Certain crewmembers, stowaways, individuals who entered the U.S. pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program and others described in
USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over your place of residence.
Under the Child Status Protection Act, signed into law by President Bush on August 6, 2002, your child will continue to be eligible as a derivative on your application if he or she turned 21 after your asylum application was filed but while it was pending. Your child must have been unmarried and under 21 years of age on the date that you filed your I-589. The “filing date” is the date that USCIS received your application.
Provided you listed your children on the I-589, you can include them as derivatives in your asylum application. There is no requirement that your child was included as a derivative on your asylum application at the time of filing, only that your child was listed as your child on your I-589 and included prior to the decision made on your claim. This means that as long as your child was listed on your asylum application you may later include in your asylum application a son or daughter who is now 21 years of age or married, but who was under 21 and unmarried at the time you filed your asylum application. For more information about derivative asylum, see “Securing Immigration Benefits for Spouses and Children of Asylees”.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides in Section 208(d)(5) that the initial interview for asylum applications filed on or after April 1, 1997 should take place within 45 days after the date the application is filed, and a decision should be made on the asylum application within 180 days after the date the application is filed, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Due to expanding caseloads, the USCIS Asylum Division is presently unable to interview most applicants within 45 days of filing. Instead, the Asylum Division is prioritizing asylum applications for interview scheduling as follows:
- First, applications that were scheduled for an interview, but the applicant requested a new interview date;
- Second, applications filed by children; and
- Third, all other pending affirmative asylum applications will be scheduled for interviews in the order they were received, with oldest cases scheduled first.
For asylum applications presently pending interview scheduling, we are unable to predict how long the process will take at this time.
You must list your spouse and all your children on your Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, regardless of their age, marital status, whether they are in the United States, or whether they are included in your application or filing a separate asylum application.
You may ask to have your spouse and/or any children who are under the age of 21 and unmarried included in your asylum decision if they are in the United States. You should bring these individuals with you to the asylum interview. This means that if you are granted asylum, they will also be granted asylum status (unless they are barred from such status) and will be allowed to remain in the United States. However, if you are referred to the Immigration Court, they will also be referred to court for removal proceedings if they are not in legal status. You should refer to the instructions in Form I-589 for information on the documents you will be required to submit establishing your family relationships, such as marriage certificates and birth certificates.
Children who are married and children who are 21 years of age or older at the time you file your asylum application must file for asylum independently by submitting their own Form I-589.
If you are granted asylum, you may petition using the I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, to bring to the United States your spouse and/or children who are unmarried and under the age of 21 as of the date you filed the asylum application. By completing the I-730, you may also seek derivative status for your spouse or minor unmarried children who are already in the United States, but who were not included as dependents in your asylum application. For more information about dependants, see “Securing Immigration Benefits for Spouses and Children of Asylees”.
You may only apply for asylum if you are arriving in or already physically present in the United States. To apply for asylum in the United States, you may ask for asylum at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport, or border crossing), or, if you are already in the United States, you may file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, at the appropriate Service Center. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status, whether you are here legally or illegally.
You must apply 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 apply 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. For a non-exhaustive list of circumstances that may be considered changed or extraordinary circumstances, see 8 CFR § 208.4. See also, "Bars to Applying for and Receiving Asylum" in the links below.
You will be barred from applying for asylum if you previously applied 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 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 applying for asylum affirmatively.
For more information, see “Bars to Applying for and Receiving Asylum” and INA § 208(a)(2).
Yes. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status as long as you are not currently in removal proceedings and so long as you file your application within one year of your last arrival or demonstrate that you are eligible for an exception to that rule.