Seeking Political Asylum
in the US in 2023
Every year people arrive in the United States looking for protection because their lives are threatened by the government in their home country or by private individuals or groups that their government is unable or unwilling to control. In order to seek asylum, the reasons for experiencing these threats have to be based on specific grounds protected by the United States law. If you have ever experienced persecution based on your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, you may be eligible to receive asylum status in the U.S. Depending on the situation and circumstances involved, asylum seekers have to face different procedural requirements.
Filing Asylum Application (Form I-589)
If you are already physically present in the United States, for example, you have arrived in the U.S. on a student visa, and then, a sudden change in conditions in your home country prompted your fear of returning there, you can apply for asylum with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), asking them for asylum. Filling out an asylum form is a fairly simple process, but proving the need for asylum goes far beyond that.
Along with submitting the application, you need to provide documentation and evidence that supports your claims of persecution
- medical records
- police reports
- statements from family or friends who have firsthand knowledge that you have been persecuted in your home country.
This may prove to be a difficult job, therefore, asylum seekers have a better chance of a successful outcome if they are assisted by an experienced attorney.
Once USCIS reviewed your petition, they will schedule you for an interview with an Asylum Officer. Waiting for an interview may take up to six months. It is recommended that you make use of this time preparing for the interview. Asylum interviews are conducted by specially-trained officers who are skillful at interviewing/interrogation techniques and researching information about your country of origin. Therefore, this part of the process should be taken very seriously and you should prepare your case carefully.
USCIS generally provides a decision regarding your case within about two weeks after completing the interview. Though, it may take up to a month to receive a decision letter from them.
While your asylum case is pending review, you are allowed to ask for permission to work 150 days after the date you filed your application. By law, USCIS may issue your work permit after 180 days, following the receipt of your application by USCIS. If your application is approved, you are allowed to bring your spouse and unmarried children aged under 21 years old into the U.S. by filing a separate petition for them. This petition I-730 must be filed within two years of your grant of asylum status. After staying in the US for a year on the asylee status, you can apply for a Green Card.
Note: It is important to apply for asylum within one year of arrival in the U.S. However, you may apply for asylum after one year in the U.S. if you can show extreme changes in your personal circumstances or country conditions that could be attributed to delays of filing your asylum application.
If you don’t get an approval at the interview with the asylum officer, the officer will refer your case to an immigration court and you will be placed into removal proceedings, where you can try to get the asylee status by presenting your case before an immigration judge. The timeline of the process will depend on the judge’s schedule and availability. It can take up to two or three years to get a date of your first Master hearing.
During the court proceedings, a government attorney, representing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will be presenting their arguments for your removal from the U.S.. Thus, you will have to build a convincing case in the immigration court. As it is a time-consuming process and the amount of information you have to process and prepare may be overwhelming, the assistance of an experienced attorney will help you deal successfully with presenting your matter before an immigration judge.
If you win your case in an immigration court, then you are able to take full advantage of asylee benefits.
Filing an Appeal
If you lose your case in the immigration court, you may try to appeal the case before Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). If the BIA upholds the immigration judge's decision, you may try to appeal the decision in your case before Federal Circuit Court.
Asking for Asylum at the Mexico-U.S. Border
Many people from all over the world arrive in border towns in Mexico, hoping to cross into the United States and ask for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Currently, CBP One App is used to register persons who wish to use this method of crossing the border. Once they are registered, they will be provided an appointment date and time for their meeting with CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officer. Usually, persons using this manner of crossing are not detained at the border or at a detention center, but placed in removal proceedings. That means they are going to defend their asylum claim in an immigration court. They will be provided with an entry form I-94 and a Notice to Appear I-862 with a place, date and time of the first court hearing.
If persons try to enter the U.S. by any other means, without using CBP One App, they are most likely to be detained and placed in removal proceedings. They will be defending their asylum case in immigration court as well, but it is likely that they would not be released from detention, until their case is decided.
Attempting to enter the U.S. without permission, may result in the persons being placed in Expedited Removal Proceedings. An expedited removal proceeding is a way to deport an undocumented person from the United States quickly.
A CBP Officer will have a discretion to determine whether or not a person they encountered at the border may be placed in these proceedings. Factors affecting this determination can be, but not limited to the following:
- А person does not have a valid visa or other suitable entry document
- А person lied or misrepresented information to a CBP officer
- А person falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen or a Green Card holder
- А person who is not in possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months at the time of entry
Persons facing Expedited Removal do not have a right to an attorney or to a hearing before an immigration judge. CBP officials conduct the process completely and exclusively, which results in a five-year bar to re-entering the U.S. There is no appeal process for these orders and they are not reviewable by any court. At this point a person may be removed to their home country immediately.
There are situations when a person asking for political asylum at the port of entry ends up in a Detention Center. This determination is made at the sole discretion of CBP officers or ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers. Usually, while still in detention, a USCIS asylum officer will conduct a Credible Fear Interview (CFI). Asylum officer will make an assessment as to whether an asylum seeker would be able to establish before an immigration court that they have a significant possibility of being persecuted or tortured if they are returned to their home country. If an Asylum Officer determines that a petitioner has indeed very well-founded fear, supported by strong evidence, he or she may refer their case to their supervisor for further review who has a power to grant asylum to the petitioner. This, however, happens very rarely. Most commonly, an Asylum Officer either refers the case to an Immigration Court or has a negative finding of Credible Fear. If the finding is negative, it may be possible to ask an immigration judge to review the asylum officer’s decision.
Usually, families with minor children are not placed in detention centers. However, minor children, those under 18 years of age, traveling alone, will be detained as unaccompanied minors. This rule is put in place to protect children from human trafficking. Once DHS establishes the child’s relationship with a person meeting them on the other side of the border and determines that the child will be safe in their care, the child may be released into their custody.