How to Seek Asylum in the United States: A Step-by-Step Guide

asylum process in USA

The U.S. immigration system is an uphill battle filled with bureaucracy and hurdles for foreigners seeking refuge and safety.

The process of applying for asylum here is unnecessarily complex—especially for vulnerable individuals fearing violence or persecution in their home countries. But understanding the key steps can help you file a strong claim.

If the process seems daunting or you have a fear of persecution and you aren’t sure where to start, contact the Law Office of Lina Baroudi and let our team navigate the journey with you.

The Basic Eligibility Requirements for Seeking Asylum

Not everyone seeking safety in the U.S. will qualify for asylum under the law’s strict definitions.

To qualify for asylum, you must:

  • Be physically present in the United States and not a U.S. citizen
  • Have suffered persecution or fear future persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion
  • File Form I-589 asylum application within one year of arriving in the U.S. (unless an exception applies)
  • Not already have an asylum case pending or have been denied asylum previously.
  • Not be subject to any safe third-country agreements permitting removal elsewhere.

Meeting eligibility with valid claims and timely filing generally allows asylum applicants to lawfully remain in the United States while their application is pending.

The key is submitting the I-589 within one year of U.S. arrival unless qualifying for strict exceptions. Experienced immigration attorneys assist in confirming eligibility.

There Are Two Types of Asylum in the United States

If you believe you meet these thresholds for asylum eligibility, the next step is choosing between two application processes: affirmative and defensive.

Affirmative Asylum

Affirmative asylum is when someone who’s already in the U.S. legally applies for protection upfront before removal proceedings. They ask the government to recognize them as a refugee who can’t safely go back home based on persecution fears tied to their background. It’s trying to be proactive about securing the right to stay instead of fighting it later when removal proceedings start.

Defensive Asylum

A defensive asylum application is filed as a defense against active removal from the United States after entering immigration deportation proceedings.

There are two main paths to the defensive asylum process:

  1. Applicants rejected at the affirmative asylum application stage get referred to an immigration judge for further consideration against their removal.
  2. Applicants initially detained while entering the U.S. unlawfully or without legal immigration status may receive “credible fear” screening interviews. Those showing reasonable concerns about dangers with deportation are permitted to plead cases before judges empowered to still possibly grant asylum despite shortcomings preventing normal approvals.

Judges scrutinize defensive petitions more sceptically since they aim to block orders of removal rather than humanitarian reasons alone warranting asylum. But strong showings of credible fears should claimants get deported back still may result in court-directed grants allowing applicants to lawfully stay on protected status.

How to Apply for Affirmative Asylum With USCIS

Step 1: Arrive in the U.S.

You must be physically present in the country to begin the application process.

Step 2: Complete Form I-589

Fill out and submit the Application for Asylum within 1 year of your most recent arrival in the U.S. Provide all relevant identity documents and supporting materials.

Step 3: Attend Biometric Screening

After applying, attend your fingerprinting and background check appointment when scheduled.

Step 4: Await Interview Notice

USCIS will schedule an interview with you to discuss your asylum claim details and justify eligibility.

Step 5: Prepare for Your Interview

Work with an immigration attorney to ensure you have a strong case. Bring all required documentation, interpreters, and other materials.

Step 6: Receive Decision

Most hear back with a decision within two weeks after the interview. Be prepared to provide additional evidence if requested before finalizing status.

If approved and granted asylum at the end of your affirmative application, you achieve legal status to live and work in the safety of the U.S., possibly leading to permanent residency and citizenship later.

And if your claim gets denied again? Continue appealing to higher courts while stuck in limbo without status assured. With skyrocketing application numbers swamping the system, even legitimate cases see denials.

How to Apply for Defensive Asylum With EOIR

Step 1: Receive Notice to Appear

You’ll get notified to appear in immigration court after being referred by USCIS or detained for entering without documents.

Step 2: Submit Form I-589 Application

Submit your official asylum application and documents to the court as a defense against removal.

Step 3: Attend Master Calendar Hearing

The initial court date begins hearing schedules. Be prepared to enter pleas resisting deportation.

Step 4: Participate in Individual Merits Hearing

Return on your designated court date to justify asylum eligibility before a judge. Offer as much evidence behind your claim as possible.

Step 5: Receive a Decision from the Immigration Judge

The judge determines whether you qualify for asylum or instead will face removal from the U.S.

Step 6: Appeal if Denied

Work with an immigration attorney to file appeals if the court wrongly rejects valid asylum cases. Don’t let it end after a judge’s subjective opinion. Exercise appeal rights.

Lean on Experienced Immigration Attorneys for Help

At The Law Office of Lina Baroudi, we combine our passion for helping immigrants with years of hands-on experience working within the immigration system. We understand the challenges newcomers face from confusing bureaucracy and language barriers that stack the system against them.

Let us lift these burdens from your shoulders through trusted guidance only a caring, seasoned immigration attorney can provide.

If achieving your American dream seems uncertain, let us help you see things clearer. Contact The Law Office of Lina Baroudi to discuss your options.

Author Bio

Lina Baroudi is the owner and managing attorney at the Law Office of Lina Baroudi. Lina is a dedicated immigration attorney with over ten years of experience in the field. As an immigrant herself, having moved to the United States from Syria at a young age, Ms. Baroudi understands the challenges and complexities that immigrants face. Her personal connection to immigrant rights fuels her passion and commitment to achieving success for her clients.

Throughout her career, Lina has been recognized for her excellence in immigration law. She was listed in the California 2015-2020 Rising Stars List by Super Lawyers, an honor given to only 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state. Lina’s proficiency in the field is further evidenced by her role as a Law Clerk at the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District, where she gained invaluable experience and knowledge. She also received the prestigious Witkin Award for Academic Excellence in Immigration Law during her time at Golden Gate University School of Law.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google