Can I Still Apply For Asylum Even If I Am Illegally in the United States?
Yes, you may apply even if you are here illegally. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status as long as you file your application within one year of your last arrival or demonstrate that you are eligible for an exception to that rule based on changed circumstances or extraordinary circumstances, and that you filed for asylum within a reasonable amount of time given those circumstances.
Can I Apply For Asylum Even If I Was Convicted of a Crime?
Yes, you may apply. However, you may be barred from being granted asylum depending on the crime. You must disclose any criminal history on your Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, and at your asylum interview. Failure to disclose such information may result in your asylum claim being referred to the Immigration Court, and possible fines or imprisonment for committing perjury.
What About My Spouse and Children?
You must list your spouse and all your children on your Form I-589 regardless of their age, marital status, whether they are in the United States, or whether or not they are included in your application or filing a separate asylum application.
You may ask to have included in your asylum decision your spouse and/or any children who are under the age of 21 and unmarried, if they are in the United States. This means that, if you are granted asylum, they will also be granted asylum status and will be allowed to remain in the United States incident to your asylum status. However, if you are referred to the Immigration Court, they will also be referred to the court for removal proceedings.
Children who are married and/or children who are 21 years of age or older at the time you file your asylum application must file separately for asylum by submitting their own asylum applications.
What is the Fee?
There is no government filing fee to apply for asylum. But there will be attorney fees to handle your case.
What Will Be My Status After I Am Granted Asylum?
You will have asylee status. You will receive an I-94 Arrival and Departure record documenting that you are able to remain indefinitely in the United States as an asylee. You will be authorized to work in the United States for as long as you remain in asylee status. You may obtain a photo-identity document from USCIS evidencing your employment authorization by applying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Can Asylum Status Be Terminated?
Yes. Your asylee status may be terminated if you no longer have a well-founded fear of persecution because of a fundamental change in circumstances, you have obtained protection from another country, or you have committed certain crimes or engaged in other activity that makes you ineligible to retain asylum status in the United States. An asylee is not a lawful permanent resident. You may apply for lawful permanent resident status after you have been physically present in the United States for a period of one year after the date you were granted asylum status.
When Can I Apply To Become a Lawful Permanent Resident?
You may apply for lawful permanent resident status after you have been physically present in the United States for a period of one year after the date you were granted asylum status.
Can I Travel Outside the United States?
If you are applying for asylum and want to travel outside the United States, you must receive advance permission before you leave the United States in order to return to the United States. This advance permission is called Advance Parole. If you do not apply for Advance Parole before you leave the country, you will be presumed to have abandoned your application with USCIS and you may not be permitted to return to the United States. If you obtain advance parole and return to your country of feared persecution, you may be presumed to have abandoned your asylum request, unless you can show compelling reasons for the return. If your application for asylum is approved, you may apply for a Refugee Travel Document.
What if I Lived in a third country before coming to the United States?
This issue is called Firm Resettlement. It is a well-established concept that a person who has firmly resettled in another country prior to coming to the United States is not eligible for asylum. Matter of A-G-G-, 25 I&N Dec. 486 (BIA 2011).
This means that, if, on your way to the United States from your home country, you lived in a third country, USCIS may deny your asylum application under the provision of the immigration law regarding firm resettlement in a third country.
For example, if you were born in Somalia, but then moved to Mexico and lived there for a while, and then came to the United States. It is very unlikely that you would be able to claim asylum from Somalia because you were firmly resettled in Mexico, before coming to the United States.
The general test on whether you were firmly resettled in a third country involves an analysis of the following factors:
- Where you able to stay in the third country indefinitely? In our example, did Mexico give you citizenship, refugee status, permanent residence, etc., that would have allowed you to remain there?
- How long did you live there?
- Did you have a job?
- What was your intent while you lived there?
- Do you have family ties in the third country?
- Did you own a home or have other economic ties?
- Did you receive government benefits from this third country?
USCIS and the Immigration Court will typically ask these types of questions to determine whether you were firmly resettled in a third country before coming to America.
But even if you lived in a third country, if you can prove that your residence there was, “so substantially and consciously restricted” by the authority of the government in that country that you were not, in fact, resettled, you may still be eligible for asylum in the U.S.
Asylum law in the United States is extremely complex, and if you lived in a third country before arriving in the U.S., you will need an experienced asylum lawyer to help address all of the issues listed above in order to win your asylum case.
Who Can Help Me?
Applying for asylum is one of the most difficult procedures there is under the immigration law. Careful detail must be taken in all aspects of the application, from drafting the form, to inclusion of evidence, to preparing for the asylum interview. The representation and advice of a skilled immigration lawyer may be well worth the cost.