Asylum in the United States

The following article provides four basics steps to explain the asylum process in the United States.

Immigrants enter the United States for a number of reasons. Depending on each individual immigrant's circumstances, various options towards legal residence are available. For some, a work visa or other employment visa may be an option. For others, family petitions apply. For still others, more severe situations make an application for asylum appropriate.

What is asylum?

Asylum is a form of protection that is offered to those who leave their country for fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality or membership in certain social groups or for the expression of political opinions. Asylum protections may be available to immigrants who meet the legal definition of a refugee, are physically present within the United States or are attempting to enter the country at a port of entry.

Qualifying for asylum can be difficult. The United States Department of Justice reports that 41,920 applications for asylum status were received in 2014. Of these applications, 8,775 were granted, 9,222 were denied and 7,306 were either abandoned or withdrawn.

Can steps be taken to increase the odds of a successful application?

The short answer is yes. In order to help increase the chances of a successful application, it is helpful to understand the basics of the asylum process, including:

  • Timing: Immigrants seeking asylum must generally apply within one year of arrival to the U.S. There are some exceptions. For example, a change in circumstances in a home country that could result in persecution leading the immigrant to seek asylum may qualify for an extension.
  • Forms: Those seeking asylum need to file Form I-589, the Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. There is no fee to file this form, and the applicant can include spouse and children. Children must be under the age of 21 and unmarried.
  • Process: In addition to completing the required paperwork, immigrants will also undergo both security and background checks as well as fingerprinting and an interview. The interview generally occurs within 43 days of filing. These steps help ensure the claimant's identity and eligibility for asylum. Those who are convicted of certain crimes are not eligible.
  • Counsel: Those considering asylum are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced asylum attorney. This legal professional can provide assistance through the process, including assisting in accurately filing the correct forms. This can include ensuring the proper production of evidence of torture, abuse or threats. An attorney can also guide the applicant through the interview process.

The importance of legal counsel cannot be overstated. Immigration laws are often changing, and an experienced attorney can help an applicant stay current on the law and better ensure all necessary forms are completed, questions are answered accurately and the needed evidence is provided.

Keywords: immigration law