Immigration 101: Intro to Asylum

IMPORTANT: In most circumstances, you MUST file your asylum application within one year of your entry into the US. If you believe you may be eligible for asylum, and you have been in the country for less than one year, you should contact an experienced immigration attorney immediately to make sure that you meet the one-year deadline. However, if you have been in the US for more than one year, you may still be able to apply, and you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to learn more about your options.

If you came to the US after suffering persecution in your home country, or you are afraid that you would be persecuted if you returned, you may be eligible for a form of relief from removal called asylum. If you are currently in removal proceedings, you can request asylum by filing a defensive application with the immigration court. If you are not in removal proceedings, you can file an affirmative asylum application with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are granted asylum, you will be allowed to live and work in the US, and you may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status. If you have family members who left your home country with you, or who are coming to join you in the US, they can often be listed as derivative beneficiaries (someone who claims lawful status in the US through another person’s petition, rather than their own petition). If you are granted asylum, your derivative beneficiaries will be allowed to remain in the US as well.

The asylum process can be very tricky, and it is very easy to make mistakes in your application. Unfortunately, even a tiny, innocent mistake on your application can destroy your chances of receiving a grant of asylum. It is very important to get help from an experienced immigration attorney at every stage of the process. If you can’t afford an attorney, there are free and low-cost legal services that may be able to help you.


           The eligibility requirements for asylum are covered in more detail in the articles linked below. In general, in order to prove that you are eligible for asylum, you must show that:

  1. You suffered past persecution in your home country, or you have good reason to fear being persecuted there in the future;
  2. You were persecuted or would be persecuted because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group;
  3. The government of your country can’t or won’t control the persecutors;
  4. The threat of persecution you face is country-wide;
  5. You filed your asylum application within one year of entering the US (unless you can show that the circumstances in your case have changed or are extraordinary), and you are not subject to any other statutory bars to asylum; and
  6. You deserve to be granted asylum in the eyes of the immigration court or USCIS.

This article is part of our ongoing “Immigration 101” series, in which we break down topics in US immigration law. For more articles in this series, click here.

The content in this post was originally written by Stuart Nickum and adapted by Lena Barouh.

Tags: attorney, detention, lawyer, removal, refugee, asylee, persecution, asylum, immigration 101, 101, immigration, uscis, eligible

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