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Obtaining Asylum: Claim Chronology

Asylum is granted to aliens who are in the United States and are unable or unwilling to return to their homeland because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a certain social group, or political opinion. 

Obtaining asylum status allows a person to live and work in the United States, and to apply for permanent resident status a year after asylum is granted. Below is a chronology of the typical claim for asylum

Initiation of the Asylum Claim: Application

To be granted asylum status, the applicant must first either ask for asylum at a port of entry to the United States or apply for asylum on INS form I-589.  The application must be made within one year of arriving in the United States.  Exceptions may be made allowing later application if conditions in the applicant's home country or his or her personal circumstances have changed, affecting eligibility for asylum, or if extraordinary circumstances prevented the person from applying within the regular one-year period.

Establishing Eligibility for Asylum

All asylum seekers must meet the definition of "refugee" under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which includes persons outside of their country (and some persons who are still in their home country) who are unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.  Even persons who are in the country illegally may apply for asylum. If the applicant is not eligible for asylum and is in the United States illegally, he or she may be placed in removal proceedings, which could lead to deportation. 

Applicant Interview

After submitting the application or requesting asylum at a port of entry, an Asylum Officer or an Immigration Judge, who will decide whether asylum status may be granted, will interview the applicant.  Asylum applicants can track the progress of their applications by contacting the INS office to which they applied.  While the application is pending, applicants must obtain advance permission before leaving the United States.  If they do not, the application is deemed abandoned and they may not be allowed back into the United States.  Applicants must wait 150 days after applying for asylum to apply to the USCIS for employment authorization.

The Decision: Approval or Denial

The Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge will either approve or deny the application and send a letter to the applicant informing him or her of the decision. 

Appealing the Decision

Applicants have thirty-three days to appeal the denial of asylum, and instructions as to how to proceed with an appeal are included in the letter informing the applicant of the decision. 

Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with asylum-related issues.

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