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.
- Factsheet: Relief and Protections Based on Fear of Persecution or Torture (2009): Executive Office for Immigration Review
- Asylum Information Guide: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Asylum Program
- Refugee and Asylum Flow Chart (2010): Human Rights First
- Emerging Trends in Asylum Law (2013): United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- Basic Procedural Manual for Asylum Representation Affirmatively and in Removal Proceedings (2017): National Immigrant Justice Center
- Pro Se Asylum Manual (2016): Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR), Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Greater Boston Legal Services*
- Convention Against Torture Information Sheet (2003): United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- Information about Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and the Convention Against Torture: Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center
- What Should You Expect from Your Legal Representative: Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)
- How to Protect Yourself from Immigration Fraud: Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)
- Obtaining Asylum in the United States: Affirmative vs Defensive Asylum: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Overview of the Affirmative Asylum Process: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Preparing for Your Asylum Interview: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Immigration Basics: The One-Year Filing Deadline (2015): Immigration Equality
- I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- I-589 Instructions: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Worksheet to help prepare application for Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and Convention Against Torture (2003): Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project, Inc.**
*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.