Can a Minor Apply for Asylum in the USA?

Minor Apply For Asylum In The Usa

Asylum is a protection given to people who have fled their home country due to fear of persecution. This protection can be vital for minors, who may face unique dangers. This blog post aims to explain how minors can apply for asylum in the USA, covering the steps and important information needed.


How Can We Define Asylum?


Understanding asylum is key to knowing how it helps people, including minors. This section gives you a background on asylum, who oversees the process, and general eligibility requirements.

Asylum – A Simple Definition


Asylum is a protection granted to foreign nationals who have suffered persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country. 


This persecution can be based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. In the USA, this is available for both adults and minors. As you will see below, there are different processes depending on your status on entering the country.

What is the Legal Basis and Framework for Asylum in the U.S?


The legal basis for asylum in the U.S. is primarily found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It outlines who can qualify for asylum and the procedures they must follow. The 1951 Refugee Convention was also an important milestone. This defined the term refugee, and the protections they should be given.

What are General Asylum Eligibility Requirements?


To be eligible for asylum, you must demonstrate you have a credible fear of persecution in your home country due to one of the protected grounds. The protected grounds are:


  • Race
  • Religion
  • Political opinion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group


You must apply within one year of arriving in the U.S., though there are exceptions to this rule.


What is the Asylum Process for Minors?


The asylum process for minors has special considerations, especially for those who are unaccompanied by an adult. It’s important to understand how you can qualify and the different situations where you can apply for asylum.

Who Qualifies as a Minor in the U.S?

Sijs Requirements

A minor in the U.S. is anyone under the age of 18. Some processes like Special Immigrant Juvenile Status New York also apply up until the age of 21. The SIJS meaning is a protection for minors who have suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect at the hand of one or both of their parents.

What are the Different Scenarios for Minors Seeking Asylum?


There are three main ways you can apply for asylum as a minor in the U.S. – accompanied, unaccompanied, or SIJS.



Accompanied minors are those who arrive in the U.S. with a parent or legal guardian. This is the best process, as you have the support and guidance of a family member or guardian. It also means that you can apply for asylum as part of their application.



Unaccompanied minors arrive without a parent or guardian and face a different set of procedures. This has it’s pros and cons. On the one hand, you are placed in ORR custody, and they assign a guardian which gives you stability and help. However, there is, of course, the trauma and stress of traveling to the U.S. on your own and trying to understand the immigration process.



SIJS is a method of asylum for children who have faced neglect, abandonment, or abuse by one or both of their parents. When looking at how to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, this could be a viable alternative to one of the above methods. It generally has higher approval rates, although the processing times are slow.


How to Apply for Asylum as an Unaccompanied Minor


Unaccompanied minors have a distinct process for seeking asylum, with specific steps and challenges.

What are the Challenges Faced as Unaccompanied Minors?


You face challenges such as navigating legal procedures alone, language barriers, and the emotional toll of being separated from family. The ORR and other organizations can help with this, though and give you support.

What is the Role of the ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) in the Process?


The ORR is responsible for the care and custody of unaccompanied minors, ensuring their safety and well-being while their asylum claims are processed.


What is the Step-by-Step Process for Unaccompanied Minors?

1. Detention and Transfer to ORR Custody


Upon arrival, you are typically detained by immigration authorities and then transferred to the custody of the ORR.

2. Assignment of a Child Advocate or Guardian


The ORR may assign a child advocate or guardian to help you navigate the asylum process. The guardian or advocate is responsible for your well being and can give you help and support. They are invaluable during your application process.

3. Filing Form I-589


You must file Form I-589, which is the application for asylum. This form must be filed within 1 year of your arrival in the USA. You must also include supporting evidence and documents to help make your case stronger.

4. Asylum Interview


You will attend an asylum interview where you will present your case to an immigration officer. You can bring legal representation with you and your advocate or guardian can also attend the interview. It usually lasts 30 minutes but can be longer depending on the credibility of your case.

5. Waiting for Approval


After the interview, you must wait for a decision on your asylum application. The USCIS will send an approval note if your application is successful. We advise checking the status of your case regularly using their online checking tool. It’s also important to respond to any requests from the USCIS as quickly as possible.


How to Apply for Asylum as an Accompanied Minor


The process for an accompanied minor is more straightforward. You also have the benefit of having your parent or family member with you for support.

How Does the Process Differ When You Are With Family or Guardians?


When you are with family or guardians, the process involves the adults who accompany you. For example, you can file your application as part of your parent’s Form I-589.

What is the Parent’s or Legal Guardian’s Role in the Process?


The parent or guardian helps with filing paperwork, attending interviews, and providing necessary support throughout the process.

Filing Form I-589 as Part of a Family Unit


The family files a single Form I-589, listing all members seeking asylum. This makes the process much easier and convenient. 

Asylum Interview


The family attends the interview together, and each member may be questioned separately. Again, this group interview means that you can support each other and help everyone through the process.

Waiting for Approval


The entire family waits together for a decision on their asylum application.

Why is Legal Representation and Support Important?


Legal representation can significantly impact the outcome of an asylum case. A qualified attorney who specializes in U.S. immigration law can be a brilliant asset. They can guide you through the process and make sure it runs as smoothly as possible.

Benefits of Legal Support


Legal support helps ensure that your case is presented clearly and effectively, increasing your chances of a successful outcome. Other benefits and processes a lawyer can provide include:


  • Checking which path for aslylum is the best (Such as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status California).
  • Explaining things like SIJS requirements and the application process to you.
  • Help with completing application forms.
  • Help to get the right documents and evidence.
  • Representation during interviews and hearings.
  • Help with appeals if necessary.

Organizations Providing Support for Minors


Several organizations, like Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, offer legal assistance to minors. We have listed some important organizations below:


How Can You Find a Pro Bono Immigration Attorney?


Pro bono immigration attorneys can be found through legal aid organizations, community groups, and online directories like the American Bar Association’s website. A pro bono lawyer or attorney is one who provides their services for free. They do this as a gesture of good will and because they believe in protecting the rights of the vulnerable.


What Are the Challenges and Considerations For This Type of Asylum?

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

The process isn’t always smooth sailing, and things like SIJS California or your application can bring a range of challenges. This includes things like additional stress, trauma, psychological impact, and straining of family relationships.

Common Challenges You May Face


You may face challenges such as proving your case, dealing with trauma, and understanding complex legal procedures. Oftentimes, children cannot cope with stressful situations in the same way adults can. This could impact your health and well-being. Because of this, it’s important to have support from your family and legal representation.


Depending on your age, you may struggle to understand the process, too. This is because you must provide evidence of things like family relationships. To build a strong case you also have to give evidence and supporting documents. As a minor, you may not have the resources or know-how on how to do this.

The Potential Psychological Impact


The asylum process can be stressful and emotionally draining, impacting your mental health. You must think about your well-being throughout the process. Make sure you talk to friends and family if you can about how you are feeling and any problems you have.


Speaking to support groups lke NADAP, and Refugees International can help too. They are trained to help minors during the refugee process. These organizations may also be able to give you resources or direct you to local support groups.

Understanding the Importance of Proper Documentation and Evidence


Having the right documents and evidence is crucial to proving an asylum claim and can greatly influence the outcome. 


For example, you need to provide government identification with Form I-589. If applying with a family member you also have to give proof of relationship. You may not know how to get these documents or what is needed to make a strong asylum case.


What Rights Do Minors Have When Seeking Asylum?

Special Protections for Minors Under U.S. Law


You have specific protections, such as not being detained in adult facilities and having your case handled by specialized units. For example, the ORR is responsible for your custody and will assign a guardian during the process.

Education and Healthcare


If you are seeking asylum, you have the right to asylum benefits and access to education and healthcare services while your case is being processed.

Protection Against Deportation


While your application is being considered, you are protected from deportation.

There Are Several Options for Minor Apply for Asylum in the USA


Applying for asylum as a minor in the USA involves navigating a complex legal process with specific steps and challenges. It is essential to understand the procedures and seek appropriate legal support from an asylum lawyer to increase the chances of a successful outcome.


The two main routes are as an accompanied or unaccompanied minor. As an accompanied minor, you can file for asylum as part of your parent’s or family member’s application. As an unaccompanied minor, you are placed in ORR custody, assigned a guardian, and can then file Form I-589.


There are also other options like Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. SIJS is a specific asylum process that helps minors gain protection who have been subject to abuse, neglect, or abandonment.


Can a Minor Apply for Asylum Without a Parent or Guardian?


Yes, unaccompanied minors can apply for asylum on their own with the help of the ORR. The ORR is responsible for the well-being of unaccompanied minors when they enter the States. At the start, the child is usually placed into ORR custody. After a guardian is assigned, the child can then proceed with their asylum application and filing Form I-589.

What is the Role of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Asylum Process for Minors?


The ORR takes care of unaccompanied minors, providing shelter and support while they apply for asylum. It was established in 1980 and is an official government organization. They aim to promote the well-being and stability of asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors.

How Long Does the Asylum Process Take for Minors?


The process can vary, but it generally takes several months to over a year, depending on the case’s complexity. Often, the USCIS has processing backlogs, which can slow the SIJS process and other applications. We advise regularly checking your SIJS or asylum case via the official USCIS website.

Are Minors Eligible for Legal Aid During the Asylum Process?


Yes, many organizations provide free legal aid to minors seeking asylum. Organizations like The Advocates for Human Rights and Kids in Need of Defense can help you find pro bono legal services. These groups will also give you support during the process and can help with things like education and healthcare.

What Happens if a Minor’s Asylum Application is Denied?


If denied, the minor can appeal the decision or explore other forms of relief with the help of an attorney. For example, SIJS immigration could be a viable alternative. Appealing is the first step, though, and there are several stages of appeals – each with a higher level of the U.S. court system.

Do Minors Have to Attend a Court Hearing for Their Asylum Application?


Yes, minors will need to attend an interview or hearing as part of the asylum process. The USCIS send an asylum interview notification usually within 45 days of processing your I-589 form. You can bring legal representation to the interview. The USCIS officer asks you questions about your application to check it’s authenticity.

What Protections Are in Place to Prevent the Deportation of Minor Asylum Seekers?


Minors have specific legal protections, such as being placed in the custody of the ORR and having the right to appeal a denial, which helps prevent deportation. It’s important to stick to the conditions of your status though. This makes sure you can’t give the U.S. government any reason to overturn the protections you are granted.


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