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
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
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.