Determining Eligibility

You need to be physically present in the U.S. to apply for asylum via the Affirmative process. No matter how you arrived in the U.S., you can apply for asylum status. You must, however, apply within 1 year of your most recent arrival in the U.S. unless you can demonstrate:

  • Altered circumstances that directly affect your being eligible for asylum or that the delay was caused by unusual circumstances, and
  • That you filed in a reasonable time considering those unusual circumstances.

Eligibility grounds for Asylum. Read more

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Filling Out the I-589

Next, fill out the entire Form I-589 (Read more), and don’t forget to have two passport-style pictures. Gather up all of the paperwork and any supporting material that serves as proof that you qualify for Asylum.  Finally, double-check to make sure your application package is complete: Forms signed, all supporting documents attached. Check the mailing address 🔎, based on your current residence.

Tip: Avoid potential application processing delays by taking the time to make sure you have answered all questions and provided all of the necessary paperwork. Assistance Completing Form I-589: Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) may be able to assist you in identifying individuals who can help you complete your Form I-589. Please contact the UNHCR for more information: 1775 K Street, NW, Suite 300 Washington, DC 20006 Telephone: (202) 296-5191 Website:

I-585 Instruction


Acknowledgment of Receipt of Your Application

Two to three weeks after filing

If there are no questions or concerns about your Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal upon receipt by the USCIS, you will get an official confirmation letter or Form I-797C, Notice of Action (see other examples) within two to three weeks. However, if the form is incomplete, the USCIS may send official correspondence rejecting the application or requesting more information. a Notice of Action to reject the petition or may send a Request for Evidence that requests additional items.

After Filing


Fingerprinting and Background/Security Checks

Three to five weeks after filing

You will receive information about your biometrics appointment ASC Appointment Notice. This will include the date, time, and location, which is usually a nearby USCIS Application Support Center. Routine but mandatory fingerprinting for security clearance and criminal background checks is also done during these appointments.

Tip: If you are at least 75 years old or older at the time of filing, the associated fee will be waived. However, biometrics appointments are mandatory regardless of age. If you don’t get a biometrics appointment notice, you can make a case inquiry.

After Filing


Appointment Notice for Biometrics

Five to eight weeks after filing

The biometrics appointment, or biometrics screening, is usually a brief appointment that takes roughly half an hour.  This is when USCIS gets your fingerprints, photograph, and signature. Your appointment notice will tell you what you need to take to the appointment. To learn more about the appointment, read USCIS biometrics appointment.

Tip: If you know or have reason to believe that you criminal record it is very important that you contact an immigration lawyer before your biometrics appointment. Some crimes will make you ineligible for immigration benefits. A lawyer can request a background check before USCIS does and act accordingly.

After Filing


Appointment Notice for Biometrics

Depending on where you live, USCIS will schedule (Interview Notice) you for an interview with an asylum officer either at one of the eight asylum offices, the two asylum sub-offices, or at a USCIS field office (“circuit ride location”). For more information about USCIS field and asylum offices, visit the Find A USCIS Office page. Your interview notice will tell you the date, location, and time of your asylum interview. As of January 29, 2018, the USCIS Asylum Division is scheduling asylum interviews in the following order of priority:*

  • First priority: Applications that were scheduled for an interview, but the interview had to be rescheduled at the applicant’s request or the needs of USCIS;
  • Second priority: Applications that have been pending 21 days or less since filing;
  • Third priority: All other pending affirmative asylum applications will be scheduled for interviews starting with newer filings and working back toward older filings.

Workload priorities related to border enforcement may affect our ability to schedule all new applications for an interview within 21 days. Asylum office directors may consider, on a case-by-case basis, an urgent request to be scheduled for an interview outside of the priority order listed above. Please submit any urgent interview scheduling requests in writing to the asylum office with jurisdiction over your case. Go to the USCIS Service and Office Locator page for contact information.

After Filing



You may bring an attorney or accredited representative to the interview. You must also bring your spouse and any children seeking derivative asylum benefits to the interview. If you cannot proceed with the interview in English you must bring an interpreter. The interview will generally last about an hour, although the time may vary depending on the case. You may also bring witnesses to testify on your behalf. For more information about your asylum interview, see our Web page on Preparing for Your Asylum Interview.

After Filing


Asylum Officer Makes Determination on Eligibility

You must meet the definition of a refugee in order to be eligible for asylum. The asylum officer will determine whether you:

  • Are eligible to apply for asylum,
  • Meet the definition of a refugee in section 101(a)(42)(A) of the INA, and
  • Are barred from being granted asylum under section 208(b)(2) of the INA.

A supervisory asylum officer reviews the asylum officer’s decision to ensure it is consistent with the law. Depending on the case, the supervisory asylum officer may refer the decision to asylum division staff at USCIS headquarters for additional review.

After Filing


Asylum Officer Makes Determination on Eligibility

In most cases, you will return to the asylum office to pick up the decision two weeks after the asylum officer interviewed you. Longer processing times may be required if you:

  • Are currently in valid immigration status,
  • Were interviewed at a USCIS field office,
  • Have pending security checks, or
  • Have a case that is being reviewed by asylum division staff at USCIS headquarters.

We will normally mail your decision to you in these situations. For more information on the types of asylum decisions issued by USCIS, see USCIS Web page on Types of Asylum Decisions. Additional information on the affirmative asylum process is available on the USCIS Resources for Asylum Applicants Web page.

After Filing

Call today for a consultation

The U.S. asylum process is very complicated, so the best chance of success comes from working with an experienced asylum attorney.  We are highly experienced in US asylum law.  We have helped people from all over the world fleeing persecution to gain asylum in the US. Our attorneys, translators, and support staff will work with you individually to give you the best chance of success possible.  We know how difficult and heart-wrenching the asylum process can be, and we will be with you every step of the way.

Your citizenship or your residency status is something you should entrust to a professional. Call the top New York Immigration Attorneys toll-free at 1-888-ZONTLAW / 1-888-966-8529.

Can I ask for political asylum from outside the US?

NO. To apply for political asylum, you must be in the United States (embassies or diplomatic missions outside the US will not help you in this matter). Being outside the US, you can only apply for refugee status and this procedure is also a complicated procedure.

Can I apply for asylum when crossing the border?

This is possible, and such cases often occur at the border crossing with Mexico. The application directly on the border is an extreme measure. A very important point is that when you cross the border without the necessary permission (US visa) and asylum application, you are most likely to be detained and placed in an immigration prison where you will conduct initial inquiries and check all the facts you previously stated . The decisions of the border service can be delayed for weeks or even months.

Can I apply for political asylum if I am illegally in the US?

You have the right to defend and examine your application, even if you are in an illegal status. It is very important that this happens in the first year of your stay in the country. Otherwise, you have to argue, there are compelling reasons why you did not do this before.

How long does it take to get an interview for asylum?

Beginning on January 29, 2018, the Immigration Department for Asylum (USCIS Citizenship and Immigration Service Group) will give priority to the newest applications when assigning interviews. Such a change in the schedule of interviews will make it possible to weed out those applicants who use groundless statements and try to use this process solely to obtain a work permit and will enable the USCIS to immediately identify such persons and begin the process of their deportation. In reality, the new Priority will allow the USCIS to make decisions on qualified asylum seekers more quickly and efficiently.

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