Who Can Apply For Asylum?

Asylum is defined as protection that is granted by a nation to people who have had to flee their native nation out of fear for their lives or because of other dangers or threats. In the United States, asylum can be granted to people who arrive at a port of entry and apply for it or to people who are already within U.S. borders regardless of their legal status in the country. Those who are in the U.S. have to apply for asylum within one year of their arrival into the country, although that timeframe can be extended if there are extraordinary circumstances that merit the case such as changes that affect eligibility status, if you are unsure what to do in this situation contact an immigration attorney for all your legal help. People outside of the U.S. can also apply for asylum by filling out Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, within one year of their expected arrival into the country.  There are various exceptions to these rules such as:

Previously Denied

People who were denied asylum are not allowed to reapply unless there are significant changes that clearly affect eligibility status.  

Safe Country

People who get into the U.S. by going through a safe country are not eligible for asylum. For example, someone who first passes through Canada to get to the U.S. is expected to apply for asylum in Canada since it is a “safe country” according to agreements signed by both countries.

Safe Country Rule at Southern Border

It should be noted that the safe country rule to its border with Mexico, although the legality of the matter has yet to be fully decided by courts and will likely take years to be fully defined.

Can You Include Your Spouse and Children in Your Asylum Application?

When people who fill out Form I-589 to apply for asylum they are required to list their spouses and children no matter where they happen to be, their ages, or marital status. If you, your spouse, and children are already in the U.S., you can include them in your asylum request so that they are also granted asylum if you are; although deciding to do this also means that if your case goes to immigration for removal they will be included in that process as well. You should note that this refers to children who are under 21 and unmarried; children who are 21 or older or married have to file for asylum on their own. If you file for asylum on your own and it is granted, you can then petition to have your spouse and children allowed entry into the U.S.

How is Asylum Eligibility Determined?

One of the most common questions that people who file for asylum have has to do with how eligibility is determined. A person’s eligibility for asylum will be determined by either an asylum officer or an immigration judge; the rule that they use in order to do this is that a person must meet the criteria for being considered a refugee. Refugees are considered to be people who are desperately looking for protection because of persecution or fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social or political group, or other reasons. For example, people who are persecuted in their own country because they oppose the ruling political party and have to flee out of fear for their lives are considered refugees; another example would be people who are openly persecuted and in fear of death because of their sexual orientation. Of course, simply meeting the criteria to be considered a refugee might not be enough. The asylum officer or immigration judge will also use any available information to come to a decision about asylum such as all the information that a person included in their application and whether any of it negatively affects the situation such as admitting to a crime.

How Should you Prepare for an Asylum Interview?

Perhaps the most important thing about an asylum interview is to be as honest as you possibly can be. Hiding information or lying will eventually be discovered and it is sure to either prevent you from being granted asylum or to have it revoked if it has already been granted. You have the right to be represented by an attorney and, if you can afford it, it would certainly be a good idea because people who show up to asylum interviews with proper legal representation have a much better chance to be granted asylum than those who do not. If you cannot speak English, you must bring your own interpreter. If you did decide to include your spouse and/or children in the application for asylum, they must show up with you at the interview. You must also prepare any form of identification that you have and take it with you; this can include passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, arrival or departure records, a copy of the Form I-589 that you filled out, and any other documentation that might be relevant to your case. Bear in mind that any documentation that happens to be in a language other than English must be presented with a certified English translation.

How is the Asylum Interview Conducted?

Your asylum interview will begin with an oath were you must promise to tell the truth. The asylum officer or immigration judge will then establish your identity before he or she begins to question you about why you have applied for asylum. This is your chance to tell your story and convince the asylum officer or immigration judge that you deserve to be granted asylum, so go into as much detail as possible and emphasize the fear that you feel if you about possibly having to return to your country of origin. The whole interview takes approximately an hour but might last longer depending on the circumstances of the case. Everything that you tell the officer or judge will be carefully considered but he or she will not make a decision just yet.

After Your Asylum Interview

It usually takes a few weeks for you to hear about the decision that has been made about your asylum application, although it can take longer due to various reasons. You will have to go back to the place where your interview was held for your decision. If you are granted asylum you will be authorized to work and can apply to become a permanent resident after a year. While you are under asylum status you may be able to travel outside of the U.S. if you are granted permission to do so but you should not return to your country of origin because that will void your asylum status.

Legal Representation

As we mentioned, you have the right to be represented by a lawyer at your asylum interview and you should exercise that right if you are able to do so. Immigration lawyers deal with asylum cases on a regular basis and are used to handling any issues that can arise during the process. Hiring an experienced immigration lawyer can mark the difference between being granted asylum or having to return to your country of origin.