Asylum in the United States: How to obtain it?

portada asilo en estados unidos

The United States has had a long history as the leader in resettling migrants, and the need for such leadership remains, as since the past decade the number of migrants fleeing their home countries seeking to escape violence or even persecution has continued to grow, seeking protection and asylum in the United States.

Now, there are two ways to seek protection in the United States and it is very common for some people to get confused when it comes to the difference between asylum and refugee status.

An asylum seeker is someone seeking protection who is at the entry point (border crossing, airport or port), or in the U.S. mainland itself, having entered the U.S. both legally and illegally.

On the other hand, a refugee is someone who is outside the United States and has not resettled in another country. An individual who is considered a refugee or asylee represents a special humanitarian concern for the U.S., but today we will focus on asylum in the United States.


Asylum is the most frequent way to immigrate to the United States for humanitarian reasons; in 2019, some 46,508 people were granted asylee status in the U.S. #2

To acquire this status, no more than one year may have passed after entering the country; however, this restriction may be waived if there is evidence of an exceptional event that affects its timely application within the time limits granted, The Immigration and Nationality Act or INA points out several examples), i.e.:

  • Circumstances that changed and directly affect your asylum eligibility or extraordinary circumstances related to delays in filing the application.
  • In addition, you submitted your application within a reasonable period of time due to such circumstances.

Difference between affirmative and defensive asylum

There are two types of asylum applications in the United States, the affirmative asylum process, which is for asylum seekers who are not facing any type of removal proceedings.

If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not grant asylum, the applicant enters removal proceedings and may make a new application for asylum in the United States through the defensive asylum process, a process during which he or she must appear before an immigration judge.

The process to apply for asylum in the United States is:

  1. The application for asylum is made by means of form I-589, which does not require payment of any fee.
  2. Fingerprinting and background checks are performed.
  3. Send a notice to the applicant to proceed with the asylum interview. You must present yourself and your spouse or children seeking asylum benefits (children must be under 21 years of age and must be unmarried). If you are unable to conduct your interview in English, you will need to bring an interpreter.
  4. The asylum officer will determine your eligibility and the supervising asylum officer will review the decision.
  5. Most commonly, within about two weeks after the interview, the applicant must return to the asylum office to obtain a decision on the application.

NOTE: For tips from the USCIS itself that may be helpful, please refer to the following guide .

Possible responses to the asylum application in the United States

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, may respond with one of the following options:

Notice of Intent to DenyNotice of Intent to Deny: The applicant will receive a Notice of Intent to Deny if determined ineligible for asylum in the United States, which will explain the reasons why asylum was denied and the applicant has up to 16 days to submit in writing the reason why the claim should be granted, or attach evidence if any.

Referral to immigration court: If the USCIS does not approve the asylum application, and you are in the U.S. illegally, the case will be referred to immigration court. This is not a denial, but an additional evaluation.

Final denial: In these cases it is possible to file an asylum application again, however, it must be shown that the circumstances that affected your asylum eligibility have changed since the denial.

Grant of asylum: if determined eligible by USCIS, the applicant will receive a letter and a Form I-94. The grant of asylum includes the spouse and children who have been present in the U.S. and who have been included in the asylum petition by proving their ties.

asylum in the United States

Where do I apply for asylee status?


If you live inThen submit your application at:
Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Western Pennsylvania, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, Somerset, Venango, Warren, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.USCIS TSC
Attn: I-589
6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 589
Irving, TX 75038-0018
Arizona, California, Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, or Ventura counties, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, Clark, Esmeralda, Nye, or Lincoln countiesIf you send it through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)

USCIS California Service Center
P.O. Box 10881
Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-0881

If you ship by FedEx, UPS or DHL:

USCIS California Service Center
Attn: I-589
24000 Avila Road
2nd Floor, Room 2312
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, any county in California or Nevada not listed above.If you send it through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)

USCIS Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87589
Lincoln, NE 68501-7589

If you ship by FedEx, UPS or DHL:

USCIS Nebraska Service Center
Attn: I-589
850 S Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, One Pennsylvania county not listed above.Vermont Service Center
Attention: Asylum
38 River Road
Essex Junction, VT 05479-0001

What benefits does asylum in the United States include?

  • Request an Employment Authorization Document
  • Access to numerous scholarships.
  • Apply for a Social Security card.
  • Apply for a permit to travel abroad.
  • The eligible spouse or child included in the asylum application may remain and work in the U.S. and seek lawful permanent residence.
  • Request that certain family members be granted refugee or asylee status.
  • Access to government programs such as Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) and Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA)
  • After one year, an asylee may apply for lawful permanent resident status and once he or she becomes a permanent resident must wait four years to apply for citizenship.

End of asylum status

Asylee status has no expiration date, but may be cancelled in the following cases:

  • There is no well-founded fear of persecution on a real basis due to a significant change in circumstances.
  • The grant of asylum was obtained fraudulently.
  • The commission of certain crimes that make him/her ineligible for asylum.
  • Protection was obtained from another country.

This type of process does not require the intermediation of an attorney.