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There are two ways to apply for asylum in the USA.  One is called affirmative asylum and the other is called defensive asylum.




When you enter the USA and are not placed in immigration court, you can file an affirmative asylum application with USCIS Asylum office that handles cases in your state.  You can find this information at www.uscis.gov


How do you know if your placed in immigration court? 


If you entered with a visa, then you probably have not been placed in immigration court.  If you presented yourself at the border and are questioned by a CBP officer or you are picked up by ICE, you will be given an A number and an Notice to Appear also known as an NTA.   Remember to ask for the NTA from the Immigration officer that you spoke to.  The NTA is a very important document and you will need it in the future.


Make sure you have you have your A number.  Once you have your A number and before you file your affirmative asylum application, call this number (800) 898-7180.  It is fully automated so you will not be speaking to a person just to a machine.  There is no danger to doing this so don’t be afraid.


Follow the prompts and when the system says “The A-Number begins with the letter “A” and is followed by eight or nine digits. This number is printed in all DHS and Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) correspondence.”


Enter your A number.  If the message says your A number was not found in the system, you can file an affirmative asylum application with the appropriate USCIS Asylum Office.


If the system says your name is (and it spells out your name) then you will need to file with the Immigration Court stated on the NTA.


If you are not in immigration court proceedings, then you can file the asylum application with the USCIS.  This is called an affirmative asylum application.


How do you file for affirmative asylum?


You must complete Form I-589 found on the USCIS website and submit with any evidence you have and proof of identity.  Always keep a copy of what you file with USCIS for yourself.


YOU MUST APPLY WITHIN ONE YEAR OF COMING TO THE USA OR YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO APPLY FOR ASYLUM.  If you have been in the USA for more than a year and have not filed for asylum, contact our offices to see if you qualify for an exception to the deadline.


What happens next?


You will receive a receipt notice from USCIS which will show that the asylum applications as received and the date upon which it was received.  If you or your attorney does not receive a receipt notice within 30 days, you should contact the USCIS office where you filed the application.


You will receive a notice to have your fingerprints taken at a USCIS office near you.  This usually occurs within a few months of filing the asylum application.


You will receive a notice for an interview.  This could take months or years.  It depends on how many cases the asylum office has to process.  It is important to let USCIS know if you move because they will send the notice for an interview to the last address they have for you.  If you don’t go to the interview your asylum application will be automatically placed in immigration court.


When do I get a work permit?


On the Asylum Application receipt notice you will find the date USCIS received your application.  This is the filing date.  150 days after the filing date, you can apply for work authorization with USCIS on Form I -765 which can also be found on the USCIS website.


What happens if I am granted asylum?


If you win your asylum case you will receive a letter and completed Form I-94, Arrival Departure Record, indicating that you have been granted asylum in the United States.  This also i includes your spouse and minor children if they were included in your application and were in the USA.


If you spouse and children are outside the USA, you will need to complete USCIS Form I-730 which is also on the USCIS website.

What happens if I am denied asylum?


The USCIS asylum officers are not able to deny an asylum application.  Instead, they will send your case to the Immigration Court that handles your state.  You will get another chance to ask for asylum there.




It is important to keep all documents you receive from the asylum office.  If you have a lawyer obtain copies from your lawyer.  This is the proof that you have an asylum application pending and have complied with fingerprinting requirements.


Please contact us if you have any questions or need help with filing an asylum application at



Another informational article about Defensive Asylum in immigration court to follow.