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The Affirmative Asylum Process

These are the general procedures for applying for asylum through the affirmative asylum process. They do not apply to those asylum-seekers who are in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge. For information about the defensive asylum process, see the “Obtaining Asylum in the United States” link to the right. 

STEP ONE: Arrive in the U.S.

STEP TWO: Apply for Asylum

To apply for asylum, file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, with USCIS within one year of your last arrival in the United States (unless an exception applies). More information about how to file your application can be found in the instructions for Form I-589.

For more information about who is eligible to apply for asylum, see the “Questions and Answers: Asylum Eligibility and Applications FAQ” or “Asylum Bars” links to the right. Do not submit a completed fingerprint card (FD-258) or fingerprint fee with your application. Your application will be accepted without the fingerprint card attached.

Once USCIS has received the completed application, you will receive two notices:

 1. Acknowledgment of receipt of your application

 2. Notice to visit your nearest Application Support Center (ASC) for fingerprinting

For more information about the Application Support Centers, see the “ASC Locator” link to the right.

STEP THREE: USCIS Conducts Fingerprinting and Background/Security Checks

Read the ASC Appointment Notice and take it with you to your fingerprinting appointment at the ASC. You do not pay a fingerprinting fee as an asylum applicant.

STEP FOUR: You Receive an Interview Notice

We will schedule you for an interview with an Asylum Officer, either at one of the eight Asylum Offices or at a USCIS field office, depending on where you live. In most cases, you will receive an interview notice within 21 days after you mailed your completed Form I-589 to USCIS. Your interview notice will tell you the date, location, and time of your asylum interview.

Applicants who are scheduled to be interviewed at a USCIS field office may receive their interview notices later. Asylum officers regularly travel to conduct asylum interviews in USCIS field offices in many locations throughout the country. For more information about USCIS field and asylum offices, see the office locator links to the right.  

STEP FIVE: Interview

In the majority of cases, you will be interviewed within 43 days* after USCIS receives your completed Form I-589 with the exception of those interviewed at USCIS field offices. You may bring an attorney or accredited representative to the interview.  Bring your spouse and any children seeking derivative asylum benefits to the interview. If you cannot proceed with the interview in English you must bring an interpreter. The interview will generally last about an hour, although the time may vary depending on the case. You may also bring witnesses to testify on your behalf. For more information about your asylum interview, see the “Questions & Answers: Asylum Interview” link to the right.

STEP SIX: Asylum Officer Makes Determination on Eligibility and Supervisory Asylum Officer Reviews the Decision

You must meet the definition of a refugee in order to be eligible for asylum. The asylum officer will determine whether you:· 

  • Are eligible to apply for asylum
  • Meet the definition of a refugee in Section 101(a)(42)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
  • Are barred from being granted asylum under Section 208(b)(2) of the INA

A supervisory asylum officer reviews the asylum officer’s decision to ensure it is consistent with the law. Depending on the case, the supervisory asylum officer may refer the decision to asylum division headquarters staff for additional review. 

STEP SEVEN: Applicant Receives Decision

In most cases, you will return to the asylum office to pick up the decision two weeks after the asylum officer interviewed you.

You will generally receive a decision no later than 60 days after you filed your asylum application. Longer processing times may be required if you:

  • Are currently in valid immigration status 
  • Were interviewed at a USCIS field office 
  • Have pending security checks 
  • Have a case that is being reviewed by asylum division headquarters staff

We generally mail your decision to you in these situations. For more information on the types of asylum decisions issued by USCIS, see the “Types of Asylum Decisions” link to the right. 

For more detailed information on the affirmative asylum process, see the “Resources for Asylees” link to the right. 

* Consistent with long-standing procedures, the USCIS Asylum Division schedules new filings begining with the most recently filed cases (within a three-week window) and working backwards in reverse chronological order toward the older cases.  When the Asylum Division is fully staffed, we are generally able to schedule all cases within 43 days.  When more asylum applications are received than the Asylum Division can schedule with its finite staffing, cases that cannot be scheduled are sent to the backlog, consistent with the scheduling procedure described above.  Cases remain in the backlog until staff can be made available, at which point they are scheduled.



Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/21/2014