How Asylum Works

To apply for asylum, the person seeking asylum first fills out Form I-589. This form is called the Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal. The applicant needs to fill out the form within the first year of their arrival to the US. There are no fees involved. Applicants can apply for it regardless of whether they arrived in the US legally (being inspected at the border and holding a visa) or illegally (without a border inspection being made to you).

An applicant can include their spouse in an asylum application. They can also include their children as long as they are under 21 and not married. Furthermore, suppose a person is in removal proceedings (when the government orders your deportation from the US) and has a meeting with an immigration judge. In that case, they can ask for an asylum application.

Once the US grants them asylum, they automatically receive the right to live in the country. In addition, they have the right to apply for a work permit. After the first year of asylum application approval, they have the right to apply for Permanent Residence—known as a US green card—via a process called 'adjustment of status.' Moreover, people who are granted asylum are also entitled to travel outside of the United States without restrictions.

Real World Example of Asylum

There were several changes in immigration policies and asylum application procedures during the Trump administration. An example was the immigrants' barrier on border checkpoints, known as Asylum Ban. It happened mainly on the United States-Mexico border and prevented people from claiming asylum in the US.

A second policy during the Trump administration was the Remain in Mexico policy. This policy forced people who had claimed asylum in the United States to remain in Mexico while Immigration Services process the claims. It's estimated that more than 50,000 people were affected by this policy.

In addition, the mandate significantly changed eligibility requirements. For instance, the individual must be the one suffering persecution. Therefore, if only one family member faces threats, only they may qualify for asylum, not their spouse or children. Also, individuals escaping gang violence are no longer entitled to apply for asylum. People who were charged or face allegations of minor criminal offenses will also have a more difficult asylum process.

Significance of Asylum

Asylum involves giving protection to foreigners who arrive in the US, or who are already in the country, having fled their own countries for several reasons. These people must meet the "refugee" condition to apply for asylum in the US. This condition is defined by the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol.

According to the key legal document "1951 Refugee Convention," a refugee is "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."

Types of Asylum

In the US, there are two different asylum applications:

Affirmative Asylum

This type of asylum is the one you can apply for when you are not in removal proceedings. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles these cases. In case the USCIS doesn't provide you with an asylum application, you must proceed to removal proceedings. You may apply for it again, but this time, through the Defensive process.

Usually, individuals in removal proceedings find themselves in this situation due to a few reasons: they were apprehended trying to enter the US without proper legal documents; after being taken into custody trying to enter the country illegally, but then discovered by an Asylum Officer to qualify as a refugee; in case individuals are violating their immigration status.

Defensive Asylum

This type of asylum application is a method of defense against deportation from the United States. The applicant fills out the application with an immigration judge directly at the Department of Justice, at an office called the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).