citizenship questions

Who is eligible to apply for asylum?

You are eligible for asylum if you are not able to go back to your home country or your last country of residence because you have well founded fear of persecution based on one of the following factors:*

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Political opinion
  • Membership in a particular social group
*Applying for asylum is complicated and the chances of getting asylum increase greatly if a qualified immigration counselor represents you.  You may find an attorney through the New York Immigration Hotline at 1-800-870-3076 or through the NYC Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service at 212-626-7373.

How do I apply?

You may ask for asylum at a U.S. port-of-entry (airport, seaport, or border crossing), or if you are in the United States, file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.

Where can I find Form I-589?

You can find the Form I-589 by visiting the USCIS website or by calling the USCIS forms request line at 1-800-870-3676.

Can my spouse and children also get asylum?

Yes.  Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 can get asylum with you.  The procedures vary depending on whether they are in the United States or abroad.  Note that you must list your spouse and all your children on your Form I-589 regardless of their age, marital status, or where they live.  You must do this even if they are filing separate asylum applications.

Refer to the instructions in Form I-589 for information on the documents you must submit to establish your family relationships, such as marriage certificates and birth certificates.

  •  If your spouse and children are in the United States:  
Your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 may be included as derivative beneficiaries of the asylum claim.  This means that if you are granted asylum they will also be granted asylum status and will be allowed to remain in the United States.  However, if you are referred to the Immigration Court for removal proceedings, they may also be referred to the Court for removal proceedings.
  • If your spouse and children are abroad:

Once you are granted asylum, you may file a Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition to bring your spouse and/or children (unmarried and under the age of 21 as of the date you filed the asylum application) to the United States.  Except in extremely rare cases, you must apply for them within the first two years of your asylum grant.  If more than two years pass, they are not eligible to join you as asylees.  You will have to wait until you become a Lawful Permanent Resident and file a green card family petition for them.

Under the Child Status Protection Act your child will continue to be classified as a child if he or she was unmarried and under 21 on the date that you filed the Form I-589.  The child must remain unmarried.

If your child is over 21 or married at the time of your application, he or she must file separately for asylum if he or she is able to make an independent claim.  They are not eligible for asylum based on your claim.

How much does it cost to apply for asylum?

There is no fee to apply for asylum.

How long does the process take?

Within a few weeks of mailing the application you will receive a receipt notice from the USCIS with a fingerprint appointment notice and an interview notice.  Within a couple of months of the filing date you will be interviewed.  Most applicants then return about two weeks after the interview to pick up the decisions on their application.  Those who are not approved will be referred to the Immigration Court for final determination.  At the Court they can present their case to the immigration judge and ask not to be deported because of the well founded fear of persecution.  Generaly, within six months of the filing date, applicants whose cases have been referred to the Immigration Court should receive a decision on their case.
It is imperative to note that filing a fraudulent asylum application carries the toughest immigration penalty possible; a finding of fraud will FOREVER bar an applicant from any benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which means they will never be eligible for any type of visa or green card.

Can I apply for asylum if I am in the United States without permission?

Yes, you may apply even if you are here without permission.  You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status.  The form I-589 must be filed within one year of your last entry into the United States.  An attorney or immigration counselor may be able to help you to apply late if there are extraordinary circumstances or changed circumstances that would excuse the late filing.

Can I apply for asylum if I was convicted of a crime?

Depending on the crime, you may be able to apply.  However, you MUST speak to an attorney before filing because you may not be eligible for asylum and may be removed (deported) from the United States depending on the crime.  You must disclose your criminal history on your Form I-589 and at your asylum interview.