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I want to file for asylum.

Immigration Laws & Rights

How to file an asylum application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Overview

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer

This guide will assist you in filing a pro-se asylum application. For more information regarding asylum requirements, please read Asylum Publication.

Note: This assumes you are NOT in removal proceedings. If you are in removal proceedings, please consult with an immigration attorney because additional steps may apply.

Common questions about Immigration Laws & Rights

The basic requirements to file for asylum include:

  1. You must be in the United States and you must have arrived less than one year ago unless certain exceptions apply. To see if an exception might apply, please consult with an immigration attorney.
  2. You have been persecuted in your native country or have a well-founded fear of future persecution.
  3. The persecution was based on one of the five protected grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
  4. The persecution was done by the government or by a person or group that the government is unable or unwilling to control.
  5. You are not barred from seeking asylum.

You may be barred from filing for or being granted asylum if you previously applied for asylum and your application was denied, more than one year has passed since your last arrival in the United States, you participated in or were convicted of certain criminal activities, you were involved in the persecution of others, you were firmly resettled in another country before arriving in the United States, or for security-related grounds. You may also be barred from asylum if you entered the United States after July 16, 2019, at the southern border.

USCIS Form 1-589 is the application for asylum, Withholding of Removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

Depending on where you reside, you will file our application with one of the USCIS service centers. You can lookup your corresponding service center at https://www.uscis.gov/i-589, and click on “Where to File”. 

The current fee for an asylum application is $0.00. If biometrics are required, they will also be included at no cost to the applicant.

You can apply for a work permit 150 day after your asylum application is accepted by USCIS. It may take an additional 30 days for your work permit to be approved.

Generally, no. You may only travel outside the United States if you have received permission, also called Advance Parole, from USICS. If you do not have Advance Parole to travel, USCIS will assume that you have abandoned your asylum application

You do not have to have a lawyer to apply for asylum. However, asylum cases can be complicated and your ability to stay in the U.S. is at risk.

It’s a good idea to talk with an immigration lawyer about your particular situation. Immigration lawyers specialize in immmigration issues, including asylum and work authorization. An immigration attorney can explain your rights and options.

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

Use these instructions to apply for asylum for yourself and your family, all of who are in the U.S.

Use these instructions if:

  • You are applying for asylum for yourself, and
  • You are not currently in immigration custody or proceedings.

You may also use these instructions if you would like to include your spouse and children that are currently in the United States.

Checklist Steps

You must apply for asylum within one year of your last arrival in the United States. If one year has passed since you arrived in the United States, you are no longer eligible to apply for asylum. You may also be barred from asylum if you entered the United States after July 16, 2019, at the southern border. However, you may still qualify for Withholding of Removal or for Convention Against Torture.

You can find Form I-589 and the instructions for Form I-589 on the USCIS website, or by clicking here.

  • Remember, fill out the form completely and be honest with every answer. Do not guess as any incorrect information you put on your application could be considered a lie.
  • If you do not know an answer, write “UNKNOWN”. If the question does not apply to you, write, “N/A”. Do not leave any blanks.
  • Part B of the form will ask you for “Information About Your Application”. Be as detailed as possible with your answers in this section. If you do not have enough space to give a complete response, use the space provided in Supplement B, Form I-589. The supplement is included at the end of Form I-589. You may also use additional sheets of paper and attach them to your application if you need additional space.
  • If you would like to include your spouse and children that are currently in the United States with your asylum application, make sure you select “Yes” to question 24 (spouse) or question 21 (children) for each one listed. If you have more than four children, you may continue to list them in Supplement A, Form I-589. The supplement is included at the end of Form I-589.
  • Part E of the application should be filled out and signed if someone other than you filled out the asylum application.
  • Part F should be left blank. You will complete this section at your asylum interview.
  • Part G should also be left blank. This only applies to people who are in removal proceedings.

Gather and include all supporting evidence. If you do not have this supporting evidence, you will need to write an affidavit explaining why you do not have this evidence or may be asked to explain why you do not have this evidence at your interview. If a document is not written in English, you will be required to include a full English-language certified translation.

You must include:

  • Two copies of documents that prove your relationship with each of the family members. This can include birth certificates, marriage certificates, or school records.
  • One passport-style photograph of yourself and of each family member that you are including in your application. The photo must be recent and cannot have been taken more than 30 days before you file your application. Make sure you print the person’s complete name and A-number (if any) on the back of each photograph.
  • Two copies of all passports or other travel documents in your possession for yourself and each family member included in the application.
  • Reasonably available evidence showing the general conditions of the country from which you are seeking asylum and the specific facts that support your asylum claim. This can include what is sometimes referred to as a “Country Conditions Report” or a “Human Rights Report” and may be found on the U.S. Department of State website. You may also include newspaper articles, written witness testimony, medical reports, and your own personal statement.

We also highly recommend that you include:

  • A cover letter. Although this is not required, we recommend you include a cover letter in your application. Here is a sample cover letter
  • Your own personal written declaration. This gives you the opportunity to tell your story without interruption. Make sure you include who you are, why you are seeking asylum, why you left your country, who you fear and why you fear them, what will happen if you return to your country, and how they will know you have returned to your country. Your declaration should be organized, easy to follow, and consistent with any other statements you have previously made.
  • Documents that support the facts in your asylum application. This can include items such as letters or statements from witnesses, medical reports showing how you were harmed, police records, photographs, and any other document that you believe will support your claim of fear of returning to your native country.
  • Documents that show you are a person of good moral character. This can include documents such as letters of recommendation from family, friends, employers, teachers, or any other person who knows your good character; letters from religious leaders; proof of volunteer work; and letters from mental health providers, counselors, or social workers.

Your application for asylum should be assembled in the following order:

  1. Cover Letter (see sample cover letter)
  2. Form I-589
  3. Identifying Documents
  4. Personal Written Declaration
  5. All Supporting Documents and Evidence

Make two copies of your application and any supporting documents. You must file your original application with the original signature and two copies of the application.

You should make and keep an additional copy of the completed application for your own records.

Each asylum application must be filed with one of the USCIS Service Centers. Depending on the state in which you live, you will file your application with the Texas Service Center, the California Service Center, the Nebraska Service Center, or the Vermont Service Center. To determine where you should file your application, go to the USCIS asylum information page and click on “Where to File”.

Before you file, make sure your original asylum application is signed on Part D of the application.

USCIS will send you a notice with your appointment information and the address of the Application Support Center or authorized Designated Law Enforcement Agency where you will need to go. Any applicant over the age of 14 will be required to have their fingerprints taken and a background security check done.

USCIS will send you a notice with your appointment information and the address of the Asylum Office where you will need to go. You will be interviewed by an Asylum Officer who will ask you questions, including the reasons why you are applying for asylum. The Asylum Officer will also ask you questions to determine if you are barred from asylum.  Be as honest and detailed as possible with your answers. The information you share with the officer is confidential and, generally, cannot be shared with any other person.

On the day of your interview you should bring:

  • A form of identification, such as your passport, other travel or identification documents, or your I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, if you received one when you arrived in the United States.
  • The originals of any birth certificates, marriage certificates, or other documents you submitted with your application for asylum.
  • A copy of the asylum application, including any supporting documents you submitted with the application.
  • Your spouse and children must also attend the interview if they were included in your asylum application. They must also bring any form of identification they have in their possession.
  • A certified translation of any document you have that is not in English.

If English is not your first language, or you have difficulty speaking or understanding English, you may have an interpreter attend the interview with you. At the end of the interview, you will have time to make a statement to the officer or add any additional information you believe is important to your case that may not have been asked during the interview. 

You also have the right to have an attorney or representative with you at your interview; however, the government will not provide one for you. Additionally, your attorney or representative must submit Form G-28 to USCIS in order for them to accompany you to your interview.

In most cases, you will be notified of the decision in your case approximately two weeks after your interview. 

You cannot apply for work authorization at the same time that you apply for asylum. However, if at least 150 days have passed since USCIS received your asylum application, you may request work authorization by filing Form I-765. For more information on how to apply for work authorization while your asylum application is pending, please see the Instructions for “Asylum Employment Authorization below this checklist.

If your asylum application is approved, you are authorized to work as soon as your asylum case is approved. If USCIS places you in removal proceedings before you apply for work authorization, you may still apply for work authorization if the application remains pending.

If your asylum application is granted, you now have the following benefits:

  • You are authorized to remain in the United States as an “asylee” and not be deported to the country from which you are seeking asylum.
  • You are authorized to immediately begin working.
  • You are eligible to apply for adjustment of status (green card) after one year.
  •   You are eligible to apply for citizenship four years after receiving your green card.

Never present false or fraudulent documents. All documents submitted with your application will be used to determine if you are eligible for asylum. Giving false or fraudulent documents may result in your application being denied and you may be placed in removal proceedings. For this reason, you should personally review all documents prior to submitting your application.  Save all original documents, as USCIS may request to see originals of documents you submit.

If you choose to write your Declaration in a language other than English or if you have other documents such as witness letters in a language other than English, you must have them translated to English by a competent translator before you submit the application. You will need to include a “Certificate of Translation” for each translated document. Please note, you must submit a copy of the document in the original language, the translated copy, and the Certificate of Translation. (See a sample Certificate of Translation.)

While your asylum application is pending, you will be permitted to remain in the United States. If after your asylum interview the asylum officer determines that you are not eligible for asylum, you may be placed in removal proceedings and the asylum officer may refer your application to the Immigration Court. The same is true for any family members you include in your asylum application.

You cannot travel outside the United States without Advance Parole (permission). If you do not have Advance Parole to travel, USCIS will assume that you have abandoned your asylum application. If you have Advance Parole and return to the country from which you are seeking asylum, USCIS will presume you have abandoned your asylum application. You will need to request Advance Parole directly from USCIS.

Even if you are granted asylum status, you may lose that status if you commit certain crimes.

Forms Required

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

Use these instructions to apply for asylum for your family who are outside of the U.S.

Use these instructions if:

  • You were the principle asylum applicant for your family, and
  • Your asylum application was approved no more than two years ago, and
  • You are seeking asylum for your spouse and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 living outside the United States. Note: Your children must have been under the age of 21 when you filed your asylum application.

Checklist Steps

You can find Form I-730 and the instructions for Form I-730 on the USCIS website, or by clicking here.

  • Fill out one Form I-730 for each family member. For example, if you are petitioning for your spouse and three children, you should have a total of four Form I-730s filled out.
  • Remember, fill the form out completely and be honest with every answer. Do not guess as any incorrect information you put on your application could be considered a lie.
  • If you do not know an answer, write “UNKNOWN”. If the question does not apply to you, write, “N/A”. Do not leave any blanks.
  • Part 5 should be signed by you, the Petitioner.
  • Part 6 should not be filled out or signed if the family member, the beneficiary, is outside of the United States or under the age of 14.
  • Part 7 of the application should be filled out and signed if you used anyone as an interpreter to read the instruction and questions of the asylum application.
  • Part 8 of the application should be filled out and signed if someone other you filled out the asylum application.

Gather and include all supporting evidence. If you do not have this supporting evidence, you will need to write an affidavit explaining why you do not have this evidence or you may be asked to explain why you do not have this evidence at your interview. If a document is not written in English, you will be required to include a full English-language certified translation.

You must include:

  • Evidence of your asylee status. This includes the approval notice of your I-589 application.
  • One passport-style photograph of each family member you are petitioning. The photo must be recent and cannot have been taken more than 30 days before you file your application. Make sure you print the person’s complete name and A-number (if any) on the back of each photograph.
  • If you are petitioning for your spouse, submit your marriage certificate and the birth certificate of your spouse. If you or your spouse were previously married to other people, submit evidence of the legal termination of the previous marriages such as a divorce decree or death certificate. Evidence of any legal name change must also be submitted, if applicable.
  • If you are petitioning for your child, and you are the natural mother, submit the child's birth certificate showing both the child's name and your name, and evidence of legal name changes if the names on the birth certificate do not match the names on the petition.
  • If you are petitioning for your child, and you are the natural father, submit the child's birth certificate showing both the child's name and your name. If you were married to the child's mother, submit your marriage certificate. If you were not married to the child’s mother, submit evidence that the child was legitimated by civil authorities and evidence that a bona fide parent/child relationship exists or existed between you and the child. This includes any evidence that shows you have emotional and financial ties to the child.
  • If you are petitioning for your stepchild, submit the child's birth certificate and the marriage certificate between you and the child's natural parent. If you or the child's natural parent were ever previously married to other people, submit evidence of the legal termination of the previous marriage(s). Evidence of any legal name changes must also be submitted, if applicable.
  • If you are petitioning for your adopted child, submit a certified copy of the adoption decree and evidence that you resided together with the child for at least 2 years. If you were granted legal custody of the child prior to the adoption, submit a certified copy of the court order granting custody. Evidence of any legal name changes must also be submitted, if applicable.
  • If any of the above documents is not available, you may submit secondary documents, such as religious institution records, school records, census records.
  • If secondary documents are not available, you may submit written statements sworn to or affirmed by two persons who were living at the time and who have personal knowledge of the event you are trying to prove; for example, the date and place of birth, marriage, divorce, or death. Each affidavit should contain the following information regarding the person making the affidavit:
    • his or her full name;
    • address, date, and place of birth and his or her relationship to you, if any;
    • full information concerning the event; and
    • complete details concerning how the person acquired the knowledge of the event.

Each Relative Petition must be filed with one of the USCIS Service Centers. Depending on the state in which you live, you will file your application with the Texas Service Center or the Nebraska Service Center. To determine where you should file your application, go to the USCIS asylum information page and click on “Where to File”.

Before you file, make sure your petition is signed and make a copy for your records.

Any applicant over the age of 14 will be required to have their fingerprints taken and a background security check done. Your relative will be given instructions, if applicable, for fingerprinting and photographs by DHS, the Department of State (DOS), or Overseas Processing Entities (OPEs) (that is, organizations who assist the United States government).

Your relative will be interviewed by an appropriate United States Government official according with DHS and DOS procedures for refugee and asylee derivative interviews in the specific country. Your relative will be notified of the date, time, and place for his or her interview.

If your Relative Petition is granted, your relative(s) now have the following benefits:

  • Your relative may immigrate to the United States as an asylee. However, having an approved Relative Petition does not guarantee the issuance of a visa. Your relative will still be required to acquire a visa to travel to the United States.

After your relative has immigrated to the United States, he/she may apply for work authorization.

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

Use these instructions to apply for Work Authorization after USCIS has received your Application for Asylum.

Use these instructions if:

  • At least 150 days have passed since USCIS received your asylum application, and
  • Your asylum application has not been denied, and
  • You are not in removal proceedings.

Checklist Steps

To do this, look on the Receipt Notice sent to you by USCIS. The receipt notice will specify a “Receipt Date” at the top of the notice. You must count 150 days from that date, not the date you mailed your application, to determine when you are eligible to apply for employment authorization.

Any delay in processing the asylum application that is caused by you, including not appearing for your fingerprinting appointment, will not be counted as part of that 150 days. If you fail to appear for your asylum interview or for a hearing before an immigration judge, you will be ineligible for an Employment Authorization Document.

If you have received a recommended approval for a grant of asylum, you do not need to wait the 150 days and may apply for an Employment Authorization Document immediately upon receipt of your recommended approval.

If you file Form I-765 early, it will be denied.

You can find Form I-765 and the instructions for Form I-765 on the USCIS website, or by clicking here.

  • Remember, fill out the form completely and be honest with every answer.
  • If you do not know an answer, write “UNKNOWN”. If the question does not apply to you, write, “N/A”.
  • On Page 2, Question 20. Eligibility Category, enter “( ) (c) (8)”. This is the category for an asylum applicant with a pending asylum application.
  • Make sure your application is signed. If the applicant is under the age of 14, a parent may sign the application.

Gather all required documents.

You must include:

  • A copy of Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record (front and back), if available.
  • A copy of your last Employment Authorization Document  (front and back). If no prior Employment Authorization Document has been issued, you must submit a copy of a government-issued identity document, such as a passport showing your picture, name, and date of birth; a birth certificate with photo ID; a visa issued by a foreign consulate; or a national ID document with photo and/or fingerprint.
  • Two passport-style photographs of yourself taken within 30 days of filing your application. Make sure your complete name and A-number is on the back of each photograph.

Evidence that your Form I-589 was filed. This may include your I-589 receipt notice or a copy of the USCIS acknowledgement mailer which was mailed to you.

Applications for Employment Authorization Category (c)(8) must be filed at the USCIS Dallas Lockbox.

  • For U.S. Postal Service (USPS), use the following address:

USCIS

Attn: I-765

P.O. Box 650888

Dallas, TX 75265-0888

  • For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries, use the following address:

USCIS

Attn: I-765

2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business

Suite 400

Lewisville, TX 75067

Don’t forget to sign your employment authorization application. Unsigned applications will be rejected.

Filing Fee: If this is your initial (first) employment authorization application, you do not have to pay the filing fee. If this is not your initial employment authorization application, you must include the current filing fee. You may pay the fee with a money order, personal check, or cashier’s check, made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. To verify the current filing fee, you can check the USCIS website for the I-765 and click on “Filing Fee”. 

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