Every year, thousands of people seek asylum in the United States. They are often escaping from threats to their lives or liberty. People who are granted asylum have a path to permanent residency and citizenship. However, asylum is a difficult, long, and fraught process.
Just over 46,500 people were granted asylum in the United States in 2019 – the last normal year before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted entry. Many thousands more are rejected every year.
People seeking asylum or those fighting removal should complete Form I-589 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
What is Asylum?
Asylum is a protection afforded to certain foreign nationals who have arrived at the U.S. border or are already in the country. These nationals should meet the international law definition of a “refugee” but refugees are people who are yet to arrive in the United States.
Congress incorporated the definition into the Refugee Act of 1980. However, asylum is a discretionary status. The number of asylum seekers was cut during the Trump administration when a policy of turning away asylum seekers at the Mexican border was implemented.
Asylum seekers must provide evidence that they suffered persecution in the past in their home country and have a “well-founded fear” of future persecution. Asylum seekers may struggle to provide evidence of persecution. An experienced immigration attorney can help them build a strong case.
It’s important not to procrastinate when you fill in I-589. You have a one-year deadline to apply for asylum. If you overstayed a visa or entered the U.S. illegally, you risk arrest.
You should be consistent with previous applications and be honest about the extent of the problems you faced in your home country as well as what you fear if you return.
The form provides a box to check if you also want to apply for withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture. Applicants who face the prospect of persecution and torture in their home countries are likely to suffer considerable stress and may fail to provide important evidence. Although you do not need to provide conclusive proof that you will be tortured, you will need to show it is more likely than not that you will be tortured if the immigration authorities send you home.
The asylum process is notoriously long. USCIS states a decision should be made on your asylum application within 180 days after you file the application unless there are exceptional circumstances. However, the pandemic has caused a massive backlog of asylum cases. The backlog reached 5.2 million cases in 2022, according to the National Law Review.
The Biden administration expedited applications for certain Afghan applicants in 2021. There is no cost for an I-589 application. Contact our Virginia Beach immigration lawyers for help on your asylum application at (757) 464-9224.
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