Seeking Affirmative Asylum – What You Need to Know

When seeking asylum, you need to know the process and how to ace your application and interview. There are two processes when seeking asylum, affirmative and defensive. The defensive process is when the government is actively trying to remove you from the country. For the purpose of this blog, we will only discuss seeking affirmative asylum.

There are three steps when seeking asylum via the affirmative process: 1. Application, 2. Biometrics, 3. Interview. The most important point to remember is that you must apply for asylum within ONE YEAR of your last entry into the United States. If you don't apply within one year, you may still be eligible for asylum if one of these three things apply to you: you can show why your failure to apply within one-year was outside of your control; something has changed in your personal circumstances; something has changed in the country you are requesting asylum from. Please know, not being aware of the one-year deadline and/or not having the money to pay a lawyer will not help you overcome this one-year filing requirement.

The purpose of applying for asylum is to prove to the United States that you have suffered persecution in the past (hostility or ill-treatment) on account of a protected ground (ethnicity, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation or political beliefs, or what's called a “particular social group”), and/or you have a “well-founded fear” of future persecution in your country of origin.

Application
The first step in seeking asylum is filling out the application, also known as Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
There is no fee when applying for asylum.

Work Authorization
Many asylum applicants want to know how they can legally work in the United States. As an asylum applicant, you are able to apply for work authorization only 150 days after your application has been filed. If you apply before this time, your work permit application will be denied. The good news is that your first work permit as an asylum applicant has no government filing fee (usually $410), however your lawyer may charge to complete the application for you. Work permits are valid for two years and you can apply to renew your permit six months before your current one expires. You will need to pay the $410 government filing fee for any work permit renewals.

Biometrics
Next step is the biometrics appointment, aka fingerprinting. The information gathered in this appointment will be used to confirm your identity as well as check your immigration and criminal history for anything that might bar you from asylum. It’s crucial that you attend this biometrics appointment. If you don’t go, the asylum officer will be unable to grant your application.

Interview
Last step in this process is the interview. This is where the asylum officer will go through your application and ask about certain things they say. They can and will ask about anything. If you have an attorney helping you through the whole process, they can help you prepare for the interview by asking you questions that they think the interviewers will ask and pointing out the weak spots in the case beforehand so you can figure out your story.

The best way to “pass” the interview is to get a good night's rest, eat and bring water (because this interview could take hours), and be calm. Most important thing to remember is to be truthful and candid, it won’t help you to hide anything during the interview, the interviewers will know if you aren’t telling them something. You are allowed to have your attorney present if you wish.

It is also extremely important that you let your attorney or USCIS know if you move because all notices about your application, including interview notices, will be sent to the address USCIS has on file. If they have the wrong address, you might not get your interview notice or other important documents and miss your interview.

After your interview, you can expect to receive the decision in your case within a few weeks, although, for some it can be much longer while USCIS does further research or background checks. If your application is approved, you will be notified in writing and will be immediately in “asylee status,” meaning you can live and work freely in the United States. One year after your application is approved you can apply for Lawful Permanent Residence, also known as a “green card.”

If your application is not granted, you still have another chance to win. USCIS will refer your case to an immigration judge who will review your case and can then decide to grant or deny your application.

Applying for and winning asylum can be a lengthy process, it can take years to be called for an interview. Be patient and truthful throughout the entirety of the process.

Categories: U.S. Green Cards