Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia/ Palestinian-Syrian refugee/Lujain, 32 years old, is photographed in a classroom at the refugee learning centre where she volunteers as a teacher. Refugees have no access to the formal education system in the country and thus obtain education via an informal parallel system operated by NGOs and refugee communities themselves. There are about 21,700 refugee children of school-going age in Malaysia. Only 30% of them have access to education in informal community-based learning centres such as the one Lujain volunteers at. /UNHCR/ T. Adnan/ 25 August 2016
© UNHCR/Ted Adnan

This page provides general information about the affirmative asylum process in the United States. Please note that there are two paths to obtain asylum in the U.S. The affirmative asylum process is for individuals who are not in removal proceedings and the defensive asylum process is for individuals who are in removal proceedings. 

If you choose to file for asylum, we strongly encourage you to seek the assistance of a lawyer or an agency authorized to represent immigration applicants. As the laws are complicated, it is important to obtain legal assistance before you file for asylum, if possible. Please note our office does not provide direct representation to asylum-seekers, either in their immigration proceedings or in any other legal matter.

For individuals who fear return to their home country, there are a few legal options that they may choose to pursue in order to remain in the U.S. These options include, but are not limited to, asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture. The following materials offer information on these forms of protection, but they are not a substitute for legal counsel.

Asylum, Withholding of Removal and Relief under the Convention Against Torture

Asylum is a form of protection which allows an individual to remain in the United States instead of being removed to a country of feared persecution. To apply for asylum in the U.S., individuals must obtain and complete the required application, form I-589, and submit it with the appropriate attachments. The form can be obtained by calling the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Forms Line at 1-800-870-3676, from DHS on the internet at www.uscis.gov, or from an agency authorized to represent immigrants.

U.S. immigration law requires that asylum-seekers apply for asylum within one year of arrival in the United States, unless they can demonstrate extraordinary circumstances for the delay or changed circumstances that significantly affect their eligibility for asylum. Individuals who file late must explain the reason for the delay in filing and may be denied the opportunity to apply for asylum.

Affirmative Asylum Resources

Note: The organizations that have prepared these documents are located in different parts of the United States. They may have developed certain resources for people in proceedings in a specific state. Therefore, please verify that you have the correct addresses for any submissions or visits made to government offices. The guidance provided regarding the affirmative asylum process in general, however, applies to people across the United States, and is not state specific.

General Information

Related Information

Helpful Resources



*The materials by PAIR were written specifically for individuals near Boston, MA and therefore include addresses for government offices in that geographic area. If you live elsewhere in the United States, verify the correct address for any submissions or visits made to government offices.

**The materials by FIRRP were written for individuals in removal proceedings who are applying for asylum before an immigration judge. The guidance provided regarding preparation for your court case and testifying before a judge also applies to individuals applying for asylum at the Asylum Office during an asylum interview.