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How To Apply for Asylum in the USA

From Jennifer Leavitt-Wipf,
Your Guide to Immigration Issues.
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You are already in the U.S. and unwilling or unable to return to your home country because you expect to encounter persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: 180+ days

Here's How:

  1. File USCIS Form I-589 (Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal), within one year after arrival to the U.S. Expect to wait at least 180 days until approval (or disapproval).
  2. You can include your spouse and any unmarried children under 21 and apply for Derivative Asylum Status. For this, you must file USCIS Form I-730 (Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition).
  3. Work permit: after the USCIS has received your application for asylum, you have to wait 150 days before you can apply for Employment Authorization (EAD). The USCIS has 30 days to either grant or deny your request for employment.
  4. If you need to travel abroad during the application process, you must apply for Advance Parole, USCIS Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document). If you leave the U.S. without this document, you will not be permitted re-entry.
  5. To find out about the status of your pending application, write to the nearest USCIS field-office. If you have exceeding trouble with getting answers or with delays, contact the local Congressman's office for assitance.

Tips:

  1. Asylum is a serious and complicated matter. It is to your advantage to have a good attorney if at all possible. Read our article on how to find a good attorney for more details. An inexperienced attorney could do more harm than good.
  2. The above is a very brief overview. Laws, procedures and waiting times can change frequently. Be sure to research the matter further on our site.
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