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How to Seek Asylum in USA: Five Things to Know About the Right to Seek Asylum

How to seek asylum in USA
How to seek asylum in USA

If you are seeking asylum, knowing how to seek asylum in USA is the key and you must have a clear understanding of the process, its legal foundation, and eligibility criteria among other things. Below, we explore the asylum application process and detail five important things to know about how to seek asylum in the USA.

An Introduction to How to Seek Asylum in USA

The Refugee Convention of 1951 defines an asylum seeker or refugee as:

“someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion”

This is the basis that the governments of the 146 countries party to the convection work from when dealing with accepting refugees into their territory. 

It’s also this definition that you must bear in mind when considering your US asylum application as it’s at the core of your eligibility and what the UCSIS will judge your application on.

To give you an idea of the scope of this process in the US, in 2023, the nation accepted 60,014 refugees into their territory which was a significant increase compared to the 25,465 refugees of 2022. That doesn’t mean the process is easy though and you must remain diligent, and it’s advisable to seek the assistance of an asylum attorney to guide you through the process of how to seek asylum in USA.

The Right to Seek Asylum – 5 Important Things to Know

With a simple introduction, we can look at the main factors of  How to Seek Asylum in USA which include eligibility, the process, your rights, the legal framework surrounding it, and what responsibility the US government has.

1. Who is Eligible for Asylum in the U.S.

Your eligibility is the first thing to consider when looking to understand how to seek asylum in USA this is the entire basis of your argument for asylum. If you are not eligible, you will not be granted sanctuary. The grounds for asylum include:

  • You must be physically located in the US to complete your application.
  • Be able to demonstrate persecution or a fear based on five grounds.
  • Not currently a U.S. citizen.

The key point is being able to demonstrate persecution, or a well-founded fear of based on one of these five grounds:

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

It’s not merely enough to say you meet this eligibility criteria – you must be able to build a convincing case and provide documentation and evidence to support your claim such as proof of persecution in your home country. There is also the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) that can be obtained for minors, but in this guide, we concentrate on how to seek asylum in USA as an adult.

special immigrant juvenile status
special immigrant juvenile status

2. How to Asylum Process Works and How an Asylum Lawyer Can Help

The asylum process is a multi-faceted procedure that includes the following steps:

  1. Travel to the U.S. to a border or port.
  2. Complete Form I-589.
  3. Attend a biometrics appointment if needed.
  4. Attend an asylum interview.
  5. Wait for the decision from the USCIS.
  6. Appeal an asylum denial if possible.

You can only apply for sanctuary in the US if you are within US territory. After that, you must complete Form I-589 which an asylum lawyer can help you with. This form is incredibly important and you must be as detailed as possible and provide supporting evidence and documentation.

With the form submitted, you may be asked to attend a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photos, and other identification for the government database. 

After that, you must attend an asylum interview which your asylum lawyer can attend too. During the interview, a USCIS officer will ask a range of questions and go through your asylum case. This is also especially important and you must strive to make a compelling case and conduct yourself professionally.

With the interview complete, you must wait for a decision and this can take up to 180 days from completing Form I-589. If you are accepted – fantastic! You can now look to obtain your green card and start your new life in the US. If not, there are routes for appeal where you can provide additional evidence and try to get the denial overturned.

3. What Rights Asylum Seekers Have

The 1951 Refugee Convention outlined a set of definitive rights for refugees that the host nation must provide including:

  • The right not to be expelled.
  • The right to not be punished for entering the country.
  • The right to non-discrimination.
  • The right to decent work.
  • The right to housing.
  • The right to education.
  • The right to freedom of religion.
  • The right to access justice.
  • The right to freedom of movement.
  • The right to be issued identity documents.
  • The right to social protection.

Please note that this is a brief overview and each of these rights has additional stipulations. For example, the right to not be expelled only applies in certain situations and asylum seekers can still be deported.

4. What Responsibilities the Host Country Has

The host country is the country you are seeking protection with, i.e. the USA. They have a legal obligation to protect you and are governed by the framework of the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Refugee Protocol. They also have a responsibility to treat you according to international humanitarian standards and give you the rights that we outlined in the above heading.

asylum lawyer
asylum lawyer

5. The Legal Framework Governing Asylum

As stated in the original heading, U.S. immigration laws are partially governed by their admittance to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol. These diplomatic conferences held in Geneva determined the status of refugees and outlined their rights and the responsibilities of the host country.

Aside from this overriding framework, the following U.S. government agencies are involved in the asylum process:

  • Department of State Immigration and Customers Enforcement.
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Department of Homeland Security.

You will deal primarily with the USCIS as they process asylum applications, hold the interviews, and schedule things like biometrics appointments. State or county courts may also be involved in the case of minors and SIJS. 

Understand Your Rights as an Asylum Seeker in the U.S.

The first step to a brighter and more secure future is understanding the asylum application process and your rights as an asylum seeker. By doing this, you know exactly how to seek asylum in USA, what you can and can’t do, and how to give yourself the best chances of success at obtaining sanctuary and gaining permanent residency in the U.S.

Throughout this process, the services, advice, and understanding of a qualified asylum lawyer can help greatly. An attorney can guide you through all the processes and give you a fighting chance at being granted asylum.


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