Asylum Eligibility and Applications FAQ
There is no fee to apply for asylum.
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”.
To apply for asylum, you will need to complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. Forms are available by mail, by calling the Contact Center, or by downloading or printing forms from the Forms page. 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.
The Asylum Officer will determine if you are eligible for asylum by evaluating whether you meet the definition of a refugee. The definition, which can be found in section 101(a)(42)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), states that a refugee is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to and avail himself or herself of the protection of his or her country of nationality or, if stateless, country of last habitual residence 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. The determination of whether you meet the definition of a refugee will be based on information you provide on your application and during an interview with an Asylum Officer.
The Asylum Officer will also consider whether any bars apply. You will be barred from being granted asylum under INA § 208(b)(2) if you:
- 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
- Were convicted of a particularly serious crime (includes aggravated felonies)
- Committed a serious nonpolitical crime outside the United States
- Pose a danger to the security of the United States
- Were firmly resettled in another country prior to arriving in the United States (see 8 CFR § 208.15 for a definition of “firm resettlement”)
You will also be barred from a grant of asylum under INA § 208 if you are described in any of the terrorism or security-related inadmissibility grounds at INA § 212(a)(3)(B) or (F).
For more information on bars to asylum, see “Bars to Applying and Receiving Asylum” and INA § 208(b)(2).
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.
If an asylum applicant has applied for asylum and not yet received a decision, the applicant should not leave the United States without first obtaining advance parole. Advance parole, which is filed using Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, allows certain aliens to return to the United States without a visa after traveling abroad. An asylum applicant who leaves the United States without first obtaining advance parole shall be presumed to have abandoned his or her asylum application. Advance parole does not guarantee that the alien will be allowed to reenter the United States. Rather, the asylum applicant must still be inspected by an immigration inspector from United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) who will determine whether the asylum applicant will be allowed to reenter.
Yes. USCIS does not provide any interpreters during the asylum interview. You must bring an interpreter if you do not speak English fluently. The interpreter must be fluent in English and a language you speak fluently and must be at least 18 years old. The following persons cannot serve as your interpreter: your attorney or representative of record; a witness testifying on your behalf at the interview; or a representative or employee of your country. The regulation relating to interpreters can be found at 8 CFR § 208.9(g).
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).
USCIS forms can be found by clicking on the “Forms” link from the main USCIS home page or at the top of this page. Forms can also be ordered by mail, by calling the Contact Center, or by printing forms from Forms page.
You will be interviewed through an interpreter who you bring with you to the interview. If you have a document that is not in English, you are required to provide a certified translation of the documents into English.
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 and unmarried, 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”.
You may find out the status of a pending asylum application by checking online, sending a written inquiry, or by visiting the Asylum Office with jurisdiction over your case.
If you have an asylum application pending with us, you can check your case status online. All you need is the receipt number that we mailed you after you filed your application. Start here: uscis.gov/casestatus.
You should write to the Asylum Office having jurisdiction over your case.
Please provide the following information when you write.
Applicant's A-Number (8 or 9 digit number following the letter "A")
Applicant's current legal name and, if different, the name as it appears on the application
Applicant's or petitioner's date of birth
Date of interview, if applicable
You may inquire in person at the Asylum Office where your case is pending. The eight asylum offices are located at: Arlington, VA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Los Angeles (Anaheim), CA; Miami, FL; Newark, NJ (Lyndhurst); New York, NY (Rosedale); and San Francisco, CA.
Please note that in accordance with CFR 208.6 USCIS may not release information about your asylum case to a third party without your written permission. If you would like information about your case released to your attorney, please include a signed copy of the Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative, with the request.
For asylum applications filed on or after April 1, 1997, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that the initial interview should take place within 45 days after the date the application is filed. A decision should be made on the asylum application within 180 days after the date the application is filed, unless there are exceptional circumstances. See INA section 208(d)(5).
As of Jan. 29, 2018, the USCIS Asylum Division is scheduling interviews in the following order of priority:*
- First priority: Applications that were scheduled for an interview, but the interview had to be rescheduled at the applicant’s request or the needs of USCIS;
- Second priority: Applications that have been pending 21 days or less since filing;
- Third priority: All other pending affirmative asylum applications will be scheduled for interviews starting with newer filings and working back towards older filings.
*This scheduling approach was first established following the asylum reforms of 1995 (PDF, 22 KB), and was in place previously for 20 years.
Workload priorities, including those related to border enforcement, may affect our ability to schedule all new applications for an interview within 21 days.
Asylum office directors may consider, on a case-by-case basis, an urgent request to be scheduled for an interview outside of the priority order listed above. Please submit any urgent interview scheduling requests in writing to the asylum office with jurisdiction over your case. Go to the USCIS Service and Office Locator page for contact information.
For asylum applicants who live far from an asylum office or an asylum sub-office, asylum offices schedule interviews at USCIS field offices (“circuit ride” locations) as resources permit. Please contact the asylum office with jurisdiction over your case for more detailed information.
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.
Yes. Because of the unique vulnerability and circumstances of minors, USCIS issued guidance relating to minor asylum seekers in 1998. These “Guidelines For Children’s Asylum Claims” (PDF, 16 KB) (the Guidelines) provide Asylum Officers with child-sensitive interview procedures and guidance regarding the most common issues that may arise in these cases. The Guidelines are designed to enhance the ability of Asylum Officers to address more responsively the substantive and procedural aspects of the minor’s claim. For more information on minors applying for asylum, see “Procedures for Minor Principal Applicant Claims for Asylum” below.
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:
- Requesting forms by mail, by calling the Contact Center, or by downloading or printing forms from the Forms page.
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
Yes. Regulations on confidentiality can be found at 8 CFR 208.6. In general, asylum-related information may not be shared with third parties without the asylum applicant’s written consent or the Secretary of Homeland Security’s specific authorization. There are, however, limited circumstances in which this general prohibition does not apply. For more information, see “Fact Sheet: Federal Regulations Protecting the Confidentiality of Asylum Applicants” (PDF, 484 KB). (PDF, 484 KB)
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”.
If an asylee plans to depart the United States, he or she must obtain permission to return to the United States before departure by obtaining a Refugee Travel Document (RTD). The asylee’s derivatives, if any, will also have to obtain refugee travel documents before leaving the United States. A Refugee Travel Document may be used for temporary travel abroad and is required for readmission to the United States as an asylee. If an asylee does not obtain a Refugee Travel Document in advance of departure, he or she may be unable to re-enter the United States, or the asylee may be placed in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge.
To apply for a RTD, an asylee or asylum applicant will need to submit a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with the required fee or request for fee waiver under 8 CFR § 103.7(c) to:
Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87131
Lincoln, NE 68501-7131
For more information about refugee travel documents, see “How Do I Get A Refugee Travel Document?” in the links below. Additional information can also be found by clicking on the Fact Sheet, “Traveling Outside the United States as an Asylum Applicant, an Asylee, or a Lawful Permanent Resident Who Obtained Such Status Based on Asylum Status”.