Asylum or Refugee

Every year people come to the United States seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to:
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group
  • Political opinion
If you are eligible for asylum you may be permitted to remain in the United States. To apply for Asylum, file a Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removalwithin one year of your arrival to the United States. There is no fee to apply for asylum. You may include your spouse and children who are in the United States on your application at the time you file or at any time until a final decision is made on your case. To include your child on your application, the child must be under 21 and unmarried. For more information see our Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal page.

Permission to Work in the United States

You cannot apply for permission to work (employment authorization) in the United States at the same time you apply for asylum.
You may apply for employment authorization if:
  • 150 days have passed since you filed your complete asylum application, excluding any delays caused by you (such as a request to reschedule your interview) AND
  • No decision has been made on your application
If you are granted asylum you may work immediately. Some asylees choose to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for convenience or identification purposes, but an EAD is not necessary to work if you are an asylee.
To apply for employment authorization, you must file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.  There is no fee to apply for your first EAD if you have a pending asylum application or if you have been granted asylum. 

Bringing Your Family to the United States

If you are granted asylum you may petition to bring your spouse and children to the United States by filing a Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. To include your child on your application, the child must be under 21 and unmarried.
You must file the petition within two years of being granted asylum unless there are humanitarian reasons to excuse this deadline. There is no fee to file this petition. 

Filing for Permanent Residence (Green Card)

You may apply for a green card one year after being granted asylum. To apply for a green card, file a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status. You must submit a separate I-485 application packet for yourself and, if applicable, for each family member who received derivative asylum based on your case.

The Affirmative Asylum Process

The following steps explain how you apply for asylum in the United States through the affirmative asylum process. The information in this section will not apply to you if you are seeking asylum through the defensive asylum process, meaning you are in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

STEP ONE: Arrive in the U.S.
To apply for asylum in the U.S., you must be physically present in the U.S. or seeking entry into the U.S. at a port of entry.

STEP TWO: Apply for Asylum
To apply for asylum, you should file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, with USCIS within one year of your last arrival in the United States (unless you qualify for an exception to the one-year filing deadline).
Do not submit a completed fingerprint card (FD-258) or fingerprint fee with your application. Your application will be accepted without the fingerprint card attached.

Bars to Applying for Asylum
You may not be eligible to apply for asylum if you:
  • Did not follow the one-year filing deadline for Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. The one-year deadline is calculated from the date of your last arrival in the U.S. or April 1, 1997, whichever is later;
  • Had a previous asylum application denied by an immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals; or
  • Can be removed to a safe third country under a two-party or multi-party agreement between the United States and other countries.
There are exceptions to these bars for “changed circumstances” or “extraordinary circumstances.”

Once USCIS has received the completed application, you will receive two notices:
1. Acknowledgment of receipt of your application, and
2. Notice to visit your nearest application support center (ASC) for fingerprinting.

STEP THREE: Fingerprinting and Background/Security Checks
You should read the ASC Appointment Notice and take it with you to your fingerprinting appointment at the ASC. You do not need to pay a fingerprinting fee as an asylum applicant.
If you are also requesting asylum status for your spouse and children and they are with you in the U.S., they will need to go with you to your ASC appointment.

STEP FOUR: Receive and Interview Notice
Depending on where you live, we will schedule you for an interview with an asylum officer either at one of the eight asylum offices or at a USCIS field office. Your interview notice will tell you the date, location, and time of your asylum interview.
Please Note: Delay in Scheduling Your Asylum Interview
We are committed to processing and adjudicating every application we receive in a timely manner; however, because of the diversion of an increasing number of asylum officers to conduct protection screening interviews for persons arriving at the border, there could be a delay in scheduling your interview.
On December 26th, 2014, the USCIS Asylum Division began prioritizing asylum applications for interview scheduling as follows:
  • First, applications that were scheduled for an interview, but the applicant requested a new interview date;
  • Second, applications filed by children; and
  • Third, all other pending affirmative asylum applications will be scheduled for interviews in the order they were received, with oldest cases scheduled first.
If your asylum application is currently pending interview scheduling, we are unable to predict how long the process will take at this time. 
Asylum Office Directors have the discretion to consider applicants’ requests for urgent interview scheduling outside of the above prioritization categories on a case-by-case basis.  Please submit any urgent interview scheduling requests in writing to the asylum office with jurisdiction over your case.  
STEP FIVEInterview
You may bring an attorney or accredited representative to the interview. You must also bring your spouse and any children seeking derivative asylum benefits to the interview.
If you cannot proceed with the interview in English you must bring an interpreter.
The interview will generally last about an hour, although the time may vary depending on the case. You may also bring witnesses to testify on your behalf.

STEP SIXAsylum Officer Makes Determination on Eligibility and Supervisory Asylum Officer Reviews the Decision
You must meet the definition of a refugee in order to be eligible for asylum.
The asylum officer will determine whether you:
  • Are eligible to apply for asylum,
  • Meet the definition of a refugee , and
  • Are barred from being granted asylum .
A supervisory asylum officer reviews the asylum officer’s decision to ensure it is consistent with the law. Depending on the case, the supervisory asylum officer may refer the decision to asylum division staff at USCIS headquarters for additional review.

STEP SEVEN: Receive Decision
In most cases, you will return to the asylum office to pick up the decision two weeks after the asylum officer interviewed you.
Longer processing times may be required if you:
  • Are currently in valid immigration status,
  • Were interviewed at a USCIS field office,
  • Have pending security checks, or
  • Have a case that is being reviewed by asylum division staff at USCIS headquarters.