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The Affirmative Asylum Process
What is Affirmative Asylum Process?

These are the general procedures for applying for asylum through the affirmative asylum process. They do not apply to those asylum-seekers who are in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge.

STEP ONE: Asylum-Seeker Arrives in the United States

STEP TWO: Asylum-Seeker Applies for Asylum

Asylum-seeker files Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, with the appropriate USCIS Service Center within one year of last arrival in the United States (unless an exception applies). For more information about who is eligible to apply for asylum, click on “Asylum Eligibility and Applications FAQ” or “Bars to Applying for and Receiving Asylum” under Related Links on the right. Information about where to send your application can be found in the instructions to Form I-589. Once the Service Center has received the completed application, the applicant will receive a notice acknowledging receipt of the application.

STEP THREE: Applicant Is Fingerprinted and Background Security Checks Are Conducted

Applicants 13 years of age and older receive a notice from the Service Center to go to an Application Support Center (or authorized Designated Law Enforcement Agency) to have their fingerprints taken. After the USCIS Service Center receives your completed Form I- 589, a notice will be mailed to you providing you with a 2 week period in which to get your fingerprints taken and including the location of the nearest USCIS-authorized fingerprint site. Do not submit a completed fingerprint card (FD-258) or fingerprint fee with your application. Your application will be accepted without the fingerprint card attached. You should read the instructions in the notice, and take the notice to the fingerprint site when you go to your fingerprint appointment. You are exempt from the $70 biometric fee. Your fingerprints will be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a background/security check. The FBI will send those results to USCIS. Your fingerprints have to be taken before USCIS can interview on your application and USCIS must receive the results of these checks before an asylum application can be approved.

STEP FOUR: Applicant Receives Interview Notice

The applicant is then scheduled for an interview with an Asylum Officer, either at one of the eight asylum offices, or at a USCIS field office, depending on the applicant’s residence. In most cases, an applicant will receive a notice with the date, location, and time of their asylum interview within 21 days after the applicant mailed a complete Form I-589 to the Service Center. Applicants who are scheduled to be interviewed at a USCIS field office may receive their interview notices later. Asylum officers regularly travel to conduct asylum interviews in USCIS field offices in many locations throughout the country.

STEP FIVE: Applicant Is Interviewed by an Asylum Officer

The applicant is interviewed by an Asylum Officer at either:

  • One of the eight asylum offices located in Arlington, VA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Los Angeles (Anaheim), CA; Miami, FL; Newark (Lyndhurst), NJ; New York (Rosedale), NY; and San Francisco, CA - OR
  • A USCIS field office

In the majority of cases, the applicant is interviewed within 43 days after the filing date. The exception is for those who are interviewed at the USCIS field offices.

An applicant may bring an attorney or accredited representative to the interview. An applicant must bring any spouse and/or children who are seeking derivative asylum benefits to the interview. An applicant who cannot proceed with the interview in English must bring an interpreter to the interview. The interview will generally last about an hour, although the time may vary depending on the case. The applicant may also bring witnesses to testify in support of the applicant.

STEP SIX: Asylum Officer Makes Determination on Eligibility and Supervisory Asylum Officer Reviews the Decision

An applicant must be a refugee in order to be eligible for asylum (see the "Definition of Refugee" under Related Links). The Asylum Officer will determine whether the applicant:

  • Is eligible to apply for asylum;
  • Meets the definition of a refugee in INA § 101(a)(42)(A); and
  • Is barred from being granted asylum under INA § 208(b)(2).

A Supervisory Asylum Officer reviews the Asylum Officer’s decision to ensure it is consistent with the law. Depending on the case, the Supervisory Asylum Officer may refer the decision to Asylum Division Headquarters staff for additional review.

STEP SEVEN: Applicant Receives Decision

In most cases, the applicant returns to the asylum office to pick up the decision two weeks after the interview was conducted.

The applicant will generally receive a decision no later than 60 days after he or she filed the asylum application. Longer processing times may be required for an applicant who is currently in valid status, was interviewed at a USCIS field office, where security checks remaining pending, or whose case is being reviewed by Asylum Division Headquarters staff. The decision is generally mailed to the applicant in these situations. For more information on the types of asylum decisions issued by USCIS, click on “Types of Asylum Decisions” under Related Links on the right.

To apply for asylum, you will need to complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. We specialize in filing Asylum cases. For assistance with determining eligibility for Asylum and any other questions, click here >