Attorney at Law

Guide on How to Obtain Affirmative Asylum

Lia Kopin-Green
April 3, 2024
Last reviewed by
Joanna Smykowski
April 3, 2024

Seeking affirmative asylum in the United States may provide a lifeline for those escaping persecution or danger in their home countries. However, the process can be intimidating. In this guide, we will break down the necessary steps in the affirmative asylum process. Whether you're fleeing political strife, religious persecution, or other imminent threats, knowing how to navigate the asylum process is crucial for finding safety and security in the United States.

1. Determine Your Asylum Pathway

Before getting started on your asylum process, it is important to determine that affirmative asylum is right for you. There are two main pathways to obtaining asylum in the United States: the affirmative asylum process and the defensive asylum process.

The affirmative asylum process is designated to those who are submitting a request for asylum from within the United States, regardless of how they arrived in the country. Their asylum applications are filed through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within one year of when they last arrived in the U.S.

On the other hand, defensive asylum is sought by individuals who were denied through the affirmative process, or have been detained for removal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This process occurs when an individual requests asylum as a defense against removal from the United States. 

The asylum application process differs depending on which application pathway you take, so before continuing on your journey to affirmative asylum, it is critical to ensure it suits your circumstances.

2. Arrival in the United States

As mentioned in the previous step, affirmative asylum applicants must be physically present in the United States when their application is filed. For the purposes of obtaining asylum, it does not matter whether you entered into the U.S. lawfully or unlawfully. This means that regardless of your method of entry, you can still pursue asylum protection. Arriving in the United States marks the beginning of your journey towards seeking asylum and finding safety from persecution. With the knowledge that your method of entry doesn't bar you from applying, you can take the necessary steps to secure protection and build a new life in the land of opportunity.

3. File Form I-589

Applicants must file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, within one year of arrival, with exceptions for changed or extraordinary circumstances. In order to support your request for asylum, it is essential to provide as much detail and documentation as possible when completing this form. Moreover, according to the USCIS, if you fail to file Form I-589 within 1 year of your arrival in the United States, you may not be eligible to apply for asylum. To prevent unnecessary delays and ensure you file within your deadline, it is highly advised to start working on your asylum application as soon as possible upon arriving in the U.S.

4. Submit Your Application

Once your Form I-589 is complete, it should be submitted to the USCIS. Depending on your circumstances, you may file your form with the USCIS online or by mail. The mailing address to file your application depends on where you are located at the time of filing, and can be found on your Form I-589. Certain applicants may be required to submit their form via mail and not online, for instance, if they are currently or were previously determined to be an unaccompanied alien child (UAC). If you have any doubts about the correct avenue to submit your application, it is strongly advised to seek guidance from a qualified immigration lawyer.

5. Attend Background Checks

After filing your asylum application, you may be required to undergo additional screening procedures, including background checks and fingerprinting. These steps are a standard part of the asylum process. If you are called in for fingerprinting or other checks, it's crucial to attend these appointments and cooperate fully with the authorities. Failure to do so could potentially jeopardize your asylum case. Your immigration lawyer can help you understand what to expect during these screenings and how to best prepare for them.

It should also be noted that as an asylum seeker, you are exempt from paying the costs associated with these procedures.

6. Attend the Interview

Upon completing necessary background checks and fingerprinting, you will be sent an invitation for an asylum interview. These interviews last about one hour and typically take place at an asylum office based on your location. The scheduling process may take several weeks or months, depending on the workload and backlog of cases at the particular asylum office.

During your interview, the asylum officer will ask detailed questions about your background, experiences, and reasons for seeking asylum. You have the right to be accompanied by a licensed attorney during your asylum interview. Their presence can provide valuable legal guidance and support throughout the process. You may also bring witnesses who can provide testimonies on your behalf that support your asylum claim. 

7. Receive the Decision

After the asylum officer reviews your case and reaches a conclusion regarding your eligibility for asylum, he or she will issue a decision. This typically occurs two weeks after your interview, although it may take longer if you are currently in valid immigration status or have pending security checks. There are many different decisions the USCIS may issue in response to your application. In general, asylum decisions cannot be appealed, but if your claim is denied, you may reapply for asylum if you can prove changed circumstances affect your eligibility for asylum.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, seeking affirmative asylum in the United States involves a complex process that requires careful preparation and attention to detail. If you are considering applying for asylum or have already begun the process, it is highly recommended to seek the guidance of an experienced immigration lawyer. Get in touch today at Attorney At Law to schedule a consultation with one of our top tier immigration attorneys.

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