Affirmative Asylum 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 1) is arriving in or physically present in the U.S., and 2) files within one year of arriving in the U.S. or establishes that an exception to the requirement to file within one year applies.

STEP TWO: Asylum-Seeker Applies for Asylum

Asylum-seeker files Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, with the appropriate Service Center.

STEP THREE: Applicant is Fingerprinted and Background Security Checks Conducted

Applicants 13 years of age and older 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 submitted a complete Form I-589.

STEP FIVE: Applicant is Interviewed

The applicant is interviewed by an Asylum Officer at one of 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, if the applicant lives too far from an asylum office, at a district office.

In the majority of cases, the applicant is interviewed within 43 days after filing, though time frames for individuals interviewed at a district office may be longer because Asylum Officers must arrange to travel to these offices. 

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

The Asylum Officer determines whether the applicant meets the definition of a refugee in INA § 101(a)(42)(A) and if a bar from being granted asylum under INA § 208(b)(2) applies.  A Supervisory Asylum Officer reviews the Asylum Officer’s decision to determine if it is consistent with the law.

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.

Case decisions may be delayed, however, due to pending security or background checks.  Longer processing times also 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.

Additional Resources

You have a right to provide your own legal representation at an asylum interview, at no cost to the United States Government. You may obtain a list of pro bono (free or reduced cost) attorneys or community-based, non-profit organizations that may be available to assist you by:

  • Viewing our webpage that provides information on free legal advice.
  • Calling the forms request line at 1-800-870-3676.
  • Visiting the DOJ Executive Office for Immigration
  • Review website at
  • Contacting the asylum office or district 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. To contact the UNHCR call  (202) 296-5191 or visit
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