What is Asylum Process?

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In 2019, the United States government gave 29,916 people refugee status and granted asylum to an additional 46,508 individuals. Those with asylum status came from many countries worldwide, with Venezuela, China, and El Salvador leading the way.

With so many people seeking asylum in the U.S. against persecution or dangerous conditions in their homelands, it is natural to assume that the asylum process is simple to navigate. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Most, if not all, asylees need the assistance of an experienced asylum immigration attorney to help them establish a permanent residency in the U.S.

What It Means to Be an Asylum Seeker

When people of other nationalities come to the U.S. and request to reside in the country permanently out of fear of persecution if they return home, it’s known as seeking asylum. The persecution they may experience can be due to:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a specific social group
  • Political opinions

Asylees are similar to refugees in why they come to the United States. However, refugees apply for immigration status while out of the U.S., while asylum seekers ask to stay in the country at a point of entry, like a border. They may also enter the country on a temporary visa and apply for protected status.

There’s no cap on asylum grants—the U.S. can grant as many as deemed necessary.

Eligibility Requirements for Asylum Status

If the U.S. deems a refugee eligible for asylum, they have permission to stay in the country. To qualify for an asylum grant, they must first meet the definition of a refugee and be physically present inside the U.S. for less than a year. It doesn’t matter how they arrive.

Next, asylum seekers must prove that they have a “credible fear” of persecution if they return home. That is, they must provide evidence to an asylum officer or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official during a pre-screening that they have a founded fear of being detained or harmed.

Credible fear means that an asylum seeker has a strong possibility of can establish before an immigration judge that they experienced persecution or fear harm, causing them to leave their home country.

How to Seek Asylum

Refugees who seek sanctuary in the U.S. have two options for applying for asylum:

Affirmative Asylum: Anyone not undergoing removal proceedings may apply for asylum through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within one year of their arrival into the country. During the process, a USCIS official will determine if the person qualifies for an asylum grant.

Defensive Asylum: Immigrants can seek asylum as a defense against deportation if members of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or CBP apprehend them without a valid visa. They can seek asylum in immigration court.

The applicant will need to complete and submit Form I-589, Application for Asylum for Withholding of Removal. Filing is free. However, those with a previous Form I-589 on file with a local asylum office must include a letter detailing their reasons for filing with the Asylum Vetting Center, where current applications go.

Immigration law is highly complex, and filing for asylum is not as straightforward as many expect. It can take years to receive asylum status. Hiring a knowledgeable asylum immigration attorney can be invaluable while navigating this daunting legal landscape.

Seeking Counsel From an Asylum Seeker Lawyer

Unfortunately, asylum seekers are not entitled to legal counsel from an asylum immigration lawyer. It is up to the applicant to obtain legal assistance.

Though it is possible to go through the asylum process without an asylum attorney, having representation is highly beneficial. The odds of receiving asylum status are five times higher when working with an asylum immigration attorney. Why?

It’s simply a matter of experience. Immigration attorneys have the experience to understand the ins and outs of the field and help victims of persecution find safety within the U.S. through legal means.

Author Profile

Allison Waters
Allison Waters
Allison focuses exclusively on immigration. He likes to help individuals on a broad range of issues, including embassies, consulates, detention centers, visas at United States Consular centers. Allison wants to help most people as possible on immigration or visa problems.
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