Q: What do I need to show to be able to qualify for asylum?
A: In order to be eligible for asylum, the applicant must demonstrate that he or she meets the definition of a refugee. The individual must be unable or unwilling to return to his country of nationality because of persecution or he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of at least one of the five protected grounds: race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. The applicant must show that the persecution is by the country’s government of by agents or individuals for whom the Government is unable to control.
Q: Is there a timeframe to file an application for asylum?
A: The timeframe to file an asylum application is within one year of your arrival in the United States. There are some exceptions whereby an applicant may still file an asylum application beyond the one year period. The exceptions for the one year filing include changed circumstances which materially affect eligibility for asylum; change in country conditions; change in the applicant’s circumstances, extraordinary circumstances which prevented filing within the one year deadline (such as serious illness or mental/physical disability; ineffective assistance of counsel, etc); unaccompanied minor who arrived in the US as a child under the age of 18 years; filing within a reasonable time after lawful status has expired or ended. For most of these exceptions to properly apply, it is advisable to file for asylum within a reasonable period when the change in circumstances have occurred.
Q: What is the filing fee for asylum? Where do I obtain the form and where must the form be mailed to?
A: There is no filing fee for an asylum application. The Form to use is Form I-589 Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal. The Form can be obtained from the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov under “Forms”. For the mailing address, you will also find that under ‘Forms’. Look for Form I-589 and there is a separate link to click for ‘filing address’.
Q: If I file for asylum, what about my spouse and minor children under the age of 21 years?
A: You must list them in your asylum application regardless of their age and marital status, whether they are in the US or not. You may also ask to have your spouse and any children under the age of 21 years of age and unmarried to be included in your asylum decision if they are in the US. If they are not in the US, you may separately petition for their immigration using Form I-730 Refugee / Asylee Relative Petition once you have been granted asylum.
Q: I have been placed in immigration court for removal because of overstay. I am not married to a US Citizen. I have been here in the United States for about 5 years and I am afraid to return to my home country. Can I ask the court to give me asylum?
A: If you have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of one or more of the five protected grounds: race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a particular social group, you may file with the immigration court Form I-589 Application for Asylum or Withholding or Removal to seek relief from removal. Since you have been here for more than 5 years, your application under form I-589 will probably be for Withholding of Removal only and not for asylum, unless you can show that you fall within one of the exceptions which will excuse the requirement that you file your asylum application within one year of your arrival in the United States.
Q: What are the notable differences between asylum and withholding of removal?
A: The standard of proof required to be granted asylum is lower than for withholding or removal. Technically it is easier to be granted asylum than withholding of removal. In addition to that if you received asylum, you will be able to apply for permanent resident status after one year of holding asylee status and your family members included in your asylum application and who live in the US may also be granted asylum. If they are not in the US, you may petition for them to join you in the US as family members of an asylee. On the other hand, those who receive withholding of removal will not be eligible for permanent residence and his or her family members will not be able to benefit from that grant of withholding of removal.
Q: Can I travel after I have applied for asylum?
A: If your asylum application is still pending and you wish to travel, you need to obtain advance parole prior to the travel. The advance parole will allow you to return to the United States without a visa after foreign travel.
Q: I was granted asylum several months ago and my passport had been cancelled as part of my claimed persecution. I need to travel. How can I travel without a passport?
A: Those who hold asylee status may apply for a Refugee Travel Document which will permit re-entry to the US as an asylee.
Any advice provided in this article is general in nature and not intended to constitute legal advice for any specific case. Please consult with an immigration lawyer about the specific circumstances of your case.
Sharlene Sharmila Richards is a licensed Immigration Lawyer practicing in Houston, Texas. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2000 and is a member of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and a member of the US Supreme Court. If you require advice or assistance, you may contact her at telephone number 713-623-8088 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.