| Read Time: 5 minutes | Immigration Law
Applying for Asylum in the U.S. with Form I-589

Applying for asylum allows individuals who cannot safely remain in or return to their home countries to start a new life in the U.S.

You apply for asylum using Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.

When you submit your Form I-589 application for asylum, you ask the U.S. government for the right to live here permanently.

Being granted asylum typically requires showing you meet specific legal criteria, which is challenging without legal assistance. The experienced immigration attorneys at EMP Law are here to guide you through your asylum application. Those seeking asylum have often experienced extraordinary trauma, and we work to provide a safe place for you to tell your story.

Learn how we can help you by calling (336) 724-2828 or filling out our online form today.

How to Apply for Asylum in the United States

How you apply for asylum depends on your current immigration status, particularly whether you have been placed into immigration court or currently have legal status. If you receive asylum, you can apply for a green card and, eventually, apply to become a U.S. citizen

The One-Year Asylum Bar

Your asylum claim can be barred if you apply more than one year after your most recent arrival to the U.S. However, you can still qualify for asylum if there are changes or extraordinary circumstances.

Changed circumstances include:

  • Changes to conditions in your home country;
  • Changes to your circumstances affecting your qualifications for asylum, including changes in U.S. law; or
  • A previously dependent applicant is losing their qualifying relationship.

Extraordinary circumstances include reasons contributing to your failure to file, such as:

  • Serious illnesses, including mental and physical disabilities;
  • Legal disability, including being a minor or legally incapacitated;
  • Receiving ineffective legal assistance from a lawyer;
  • Maintaining alternative lawful status; or
  • The death or serious illness of your legal representative or an immediate family member.

If you meet one of these exceptions, you must still apply within a reasonable time under the circumstances.

Qualifying for Asylum

To qualify for asylum, you must have suffered persecution or fear suffering persecution in your home country due to your actual or perceived:

  • Race,
  • Religion,
  • Nationality,
  • Membership in a particular social group, or
  • Political opinion.

The broadest of these categories is membership in a particular social group (PSG). 

Although the definition can change based on government and court interpretation, a particular social group is:

  • Composed of members with a common immutable characteristic,
  • Socially distinct in the society of origin, and
  • Particularly defined.

An immutable characteristic is unchangeable or a fundamental element of identity. 

Affirmative vs. Defensive Asylum

To know where to file an I-589, you need to know whether you are requesting affirmative or defensive asylum. You apply for affirmative asylum if you are not currently in immigration court proceedings. If you are in immigration court proceedings—meaning the government is attempting to deport or remove you from the country—you can only apply for defensive asylum. 

The Asylum Application Process

There are several steps to applying for asylum, and they vary based on whether you are seeking affirmative or defensive asylum. Before filing, you can consult the Form I-589 filing instructions to ensure you provide all the necessary information.

Arrive in the United States

You must be physically present in the United States or at a U.S. port of entry to apply for asylum. A port of entry is a location where you enter the U.S., such as an international airport or the Canadian or Mexican borders. If you are seeking the equivalent of asylum from outside the U.S., you should apply to be classified as a refugee. 

File Form I-589 Application for Asylum and Supporting Documentation 

When you apply for affirmative asylum, you submit Form I-589 to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). When you apply for defensive asylum, you file Form I-589 with the immigration court.

Along with Form I-589, provide any supporting documentation that helps establish your asylum claim, such as:

  • Statements detailing your persecution, 
  • Witness affidavits, 
  • Medical or psychological evaluations, 
  • Country condition reports, and
  • Any other documentation of the persecution you suffered or risk suffering if you return to your home country.

Your attorney compiles the documents along with a legal brief explaining why you qualify for asylum. A brief is especially important for defensive asylum.

Preparing your asylum application can require revisiting traumatic memories in-depth. Your attorney can help guide you through the process compassionately and help draft your personal statement.

Attend Biometrics Appointment (Affirmative Only)

After you apply for affirmative asylum, USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment where it collects your fingerprints, photograph, and signature. The interview is generally located at the nearest USCIS office.

Attend Asylum Interview (Affirmative Only)

Once you submit your application, USCIS schedules you for an asylum interview. During the interview, you will be asked about your asylum claim. The interviewer will check your story to see if it matches what you submitted, and they will check to see if you are barred from asylum for any reason.

Attend Your Individual Hearing (Defensive Only)

If you are applying for defensive asylum in immigration court, you present your claim at an individual hearing. At the hearing, you can present witness testimony and offer exhibits supporting your claim.

Wait for Decision

If you have applied for affirmative asylum, USCIS will evaluate your application and supporting documents to determine whether you qualify for asylum. You can check USCIS’s expected Form I-589 processing time online to get an idea of how long it should take.

For defensive asylum, an immigration court judge will do the same, but they will also consider the evidence you presented at your hearing. This process may take several months or even years due to system backlogs.

Receive Decision and Appeal  

If your application is approved, you are granted asylum status, allowing you to live and work in the United States indefinitely. You can also bring dependents to the country. After a year of asylum status, you can apply for permanent resident status.

However, if your application gets denied, you can appeal. The process and deadlines for appeals vary depending on whether your case is affirmative or defensive.

Affirmative asylum applications are not technically denied. If your interviewer concludes you do not qualify for asylum, they refer you to immigration court. There, you can apply for defensive asylum, where you argue your case in front of an immigration judge at an individual hearing.

If the judge denies your defensive application, you can appeal to federal U.S. courts.

Contact Our Experienced Immigration Lawyers

Asylum cases can be complex, and the outcome often depends on the specific details of your situation and the evidence you provide to support your claim. Additionally, there may be deadlines and requirements that you need to meet, so it is crucial to seek help as soon as possible. Consider hiring an immigration attorney from EMP Law to help you navigate the asylum process and present your strongest case.

Get started by calling (336) 724-2828 or sending an online message today.

Author Photo

Helen believes in providing caring, thoughtful and thorough representation for each and every person. In particular, Helen focuses on helping individuals navigate the maze of rules, procedures and processes created by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and those facing criminal charges or deportation.

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