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How do I apply for Asylum?

What is Asylum?

Asylum, commonly (but mistakenly) referred to as "political asylum" is based on the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention. In short, the process protects you from returning to your country of origin if you were harmed, or will be harmed based on one of the following categories 1) political opinion; 2) race; 3) religion; 4) nationality; and 5) membership in a particular social group. Membership in a particular social group has a wide definition encompassing many groups, including gender, sexual orientation, and people with "social visibility" who face harm. There must be a "well founded fear" of harm and a "nexus" or connection between the harm and the five groups listed above.

What is the difference between asylum and refugee status?

If you are in the United States, you seek asylum. If you are outside of the United States, you seek refuge. This blog focuses on how to apply for asylum while inside the United States.

HOW TO APPLY FOR ASYLUM IN THE UNITED STATES

Step One: Fill Out The I-589

The USCIS form for applying for asylum is the I-589. There is no application fee. Follow the instructions on the I-589 carefully, and when complete, send the I-589 with two copies of the original (three total if applying for one person), with one passport style photograph, to the USCIS service center indicated in the instructions.

Step Two: Include Supporting Evidence

It is critical that your I-589 include a detailed explanation of why you believe you will face harm if returned to your country. An experienced asylum attorney will work with you to carefully draft a declaration regarding either the harm you experienced in the past or the harm you believe you will face in the future.

You should also send supporting objective evidence. This can include news articles, human rights reports, police reports, statements from others, and any other evidence that support your claim. Note that sometimes evidence that you think helps a claim actually hurts a claim. This is where an asylum immigration attorney will ensure that your application is positively supported by solid evidence.

Step Three: Apply for Work Authorization After 150 Days

After 150 days of when your asylum application was received by the asylum office, you are eligible to apply for work authorization. You can do so without paying a fee by filling out and completing the I-765. Include a copy of your asylum receipt and a copy of government issued identification. There is no fee neccessary if your employment authorization request is based on an asylum application and it is your first request. However, if you are renewing your employment authorization card, you will need to pay the fee unless you also file a fee waiver. The fee waiver must be accepted first. In sending the fee waiver, make sure to include evidence as to why you are unable to pay, such as bank statements, tax statements, and any other documents supporting your financial situation.

Step Four: Be Patient

Due to the long backlog of asylum applications, it may take years before you interview. As of the writing of this blog, it may be up to three years before you are actually interviewed regarding your asylum claim. During this time, many things in your life may change, some of the changes may support or hurt your asylum claim.

The Los Angeles Asylum Office offers a "waiting list" or "standby list". There are pros and cons to being on stanby. The waiting list was created to fill cancelled or missed appointments. The benefit is that you may have your asylum interview sooner. The drawback, however, is that you have less time to prepare for your interview. You should consult with your lawyer whether this option suits you. The Law Office of Ashkan Yekrangi is located near the Los Angeles Asylum Office and may be able to accompany you to your asylum interview with short notice.

Step Five: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Your asylum interview is the most important aspect of your asylum application. You must prepare for the asylum interview. You must review all documents submitted, specifically your declaration. Credibility is the most important aspect of an asylum claim. The Law Office of Ashkan Yekrangi understands the importance of your asylum interview and allocates time to prepare you for the interview. The office conducts a "mock interview" so that you understand how the interview will go, what types of questions will be asked, weaknesses in your case, and other relevant information. You should go to your interview confident and answer all questions honestly.

Step Six: Getting Your Decision

The asylum office will prepare a decision for you within two weeks. Sometimes the decision is mailed to you at a later date. Just because the asylum office decides to mail you a decision, it does not mean that your application has been denied. Some people will get a "recommended approval"-- this means that the asylum office will grant you asylum, but before doing so, it must wait for your background checks to clear. If you are not approved, your case will be referred to an immigration court, where a judge will decide your case.

The Law Office of Ashkan Yekrangi has vast experience in the complex area of asylum law. While the application for asylum may seem straight forward, there is much that goes into an asylum application. In addition, it is important to have your case "screened" before filing for asylum. In certain situations, it is not advisable to apply for asylum, and you may set yourself up for deportation. Further, there are many rules related to asylum, such as the one year filing requirement. In addition, some people are not eligible for asylum based on past criminal conduct, or even the smallest support of what the US government believes to be a terrorist organization. This all must be discussed with a knowledgeable asylum immigration attorney.

Categories: Asylum