How to apply for asylum

How do I apply for asylum? This page has information to help you learn how to apply for asylum.

What is asylum?

Asylum is when you receive protection from the United States government because you cannot safely return to your home country. Every year people come to the United States seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to: Race, Religion, Nationality, Membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

This page is meant to help you understand more about asylum and to help you find resources if you need to apply for asylum. This page is not intended as legal advice.

How do I apply for asylum?

To apply for asylum, you need to be in the United States when you apply. If you arrive to the United States with a valid visa or way to enter the United States, you can enter the United States and then submit your asylum application. Most of the time, you must apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States, although you can ask for an exemption.

What if I am on the US-Mexico border?

The Trump administration is currently breaking international law and not allowing asylum seekers to enter the US. All asylum seekers are being held in camps or detention centers. Children have been taken away from their parents. Read more information about the new rules for asylum seekers on the US border.

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A Guide to Case Documentation
In order to get asylum in the US, it helps your case if you have evidence to prove you were persecuted or abused, and that your government did not protect you. The more evidence you have the better chance you have to win your asylum case to be able to stay in the United States. Be sure to always tell the truth, otherwise you could immediately have your case denied. You also need to be very specific about the details. It is important to spend time remembering exactly what happened, on the exact date. If you make a mistake, the government may think you are lying.

Here are types of evidence that you can use to support your asylum case:

  • Identity documents (i.e. your passport, birth certificate, student identification card, household registry, national identity card, or political party membership card.)
  • Identity documents of family members who traveled to the United States with you
  • Marriage certificate and birth certificates for children
  • Academic records (i.e. school records, certificates, and diplomas)
  • Medical records from hospitalization or treatment due to mistreatment in home country
  • Jail or court records
  • Any draft asylum applications or affidavits that you may have created
  • Any document that has been filed with any part of the United States government
  • Any other documents that you think might be important

If you were not able to bring these documents with you when you fled your home country, that is okay. You can read more later on this page about proving your asylum case without documents.

More resources on how to apply for asylum

Asylum in the United States, Wikihow
Asylum in the United States, Wikihow

How to Apply for Asylum in the United States
An easy to read, step-by-step explanation with a lot of information on preparing for the asylum application process.

Visit our Pro-Bono Legal Resources and Additional Help page to find someone who can offer professional advice for your case.

United States Citizenship & Immigration Services: Asylum Application
The asylum process, explained by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. View the I-589 Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal. Study the application. You need to fill it out within one year of arriving to the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions for Asylum Seekers
You might have many questions. Here are some answers for questions asked by people seeking protection in the United States.

Know your rights as an immigrant
Are you on either side of the United States/Mexico Border and not sure what to do next? Are you looking for shelter, legal support, food, and help with claiming asylum? Are you under 18? The Refugee Center Online has collected some resources and information on organizations that may be able to help provide you with basic necessities and advice for your case.

Do You Qualify for a U Visa?
Were you a victim of a crime that happened in the United States? Did you help law enforcement? Were you hurt because of the crime? A U-Visa lets victims of certain crimes, who meet certain requirements, stay in the United States.

What happens during the asylum interview?

Video: Mock asylum interview
A lawyer pretends to be an asylum officer and asks questions that would normally be asked to you during an interview. This will help you prepare your own answers to the questions they will ask you.

How can I win my asylum case if I don’t have proof I was harmed?

This video is about how to win an asylum case, even though you don’t have proof that you were harmed. It can be done if you can demonstrate that there is a pattern or practice of harm in your country.


Video: Applying for asylum – winning your case
Former Immigration and Naturalization Service Attorney, Carl Shusterman, talks about how you can win your asylum case through careful preparation.


Video: Several ways an asylum case can be made in the US
More information about how you could apply and qualify for asylum in the United States.


Additional resources

Asylum Law and Procedure
Learn more about asylum, withholding of removal, the United Nations Convention against torture, the process for applying for asylum, how to seek asylum while in immigrant detention, special immigrant juvenile status, and temporary protected status.

Check our Where to find legal resources  page to find someone who can offer you professional guidance and advice on your case.

Know your rights!

Asylum in the United States, Human Rights First
Asylum in the United States, Human Rights First. There is more than one way to enter the United States and receive relief. This image shows how each way into the United States is a different process. Notice that some ways into the United States will include immigrant detention.

Know Your Rights Manuals for Detained Immigrants in Various Languages (Eng, Span, Arabic, French, Urdu, Mandarin, Somali, Hindi, Punjabi)
These manuals are intended to provide basic information to give immigrants an understanding of their rights under U.S. law during immigration proceedings or if they are arrested and detained by the Department of Homeland Security. The information in these manuals should not be considered legal advice, and detained immigrants and their loved ones are encouraged to seek qualified legal advice from the National Immigrant Justice Center or another credible organization.

Options for Asylum Seekers who are in removal proceedings but do not have an attorney

“I’m Afraid to Go Back:” A Guide to Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and the Convention Against Torture

Resources for Pro Se Asylum Seekers who are in removal proceedings
If there has been an order issued for your removal or deportation, you still have a chance for applying for asylum, even if you do not have a lawyer. Here are some guidelines for filing for asylum without a lawyer.

Anti Fraud Warning (English)
Read this information to protect yourself from people who are not real lawyers! There are people who will pretend to help you so they can keep your money. Learn how to recognize them and protect yourself!

Information for the LGBTQ community

Know Your Rights LGBTQ Asylum Seekers (English)
A document is for people who are afraid to return to their home countries because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) and/or due to their HIV status. You may have a defense against deportation if you fear you will be harmed or tortured if you are deported to your home country.  The National Immigrant Justice Center is available to provide legal counsel and provide legal referrals. You can contact the National Immigrant Justice Center at its toll free number: (312) 263-0901.

Know Your Rights LGBTQ (Español)

Know Your Rights LGBTQ (French)

Know Your Rights LGBTQ (Arabic)

Know Your Rights Manuals for Detained Immigrants in Various Languages

Anti Fraud Warning (English)
Read this information to protect yourself from people who are not real lawyers! There are people who will pretend to help you so they can keep your money. Learn how to recognize them and protect yourself!

Applying for refugee status/political asylum in the United States: processes and organizations that help

Asylum Seekers Housing Network
ASHN works with hosts to provide shelter and social support for asylum seekers. Hosts include a group house in Baltimore and individuals who open a room in their homes. Hosts and the larger ASHN community provide social support to clients.

Asylee Women Enterprise (AWE)
Tel: 443-850-0627. Provides a nurturing community and many services to asylum seekers and asylees, including case management, employment training, English classes, wellness and nutrition programming Monday-Thursday. Additionally, AWE provides transitional housing to women seeking asylum. Service area: Baltimore

Human Rights First
Their pro bono legal representation program matches good lawyers with asylum-seekers who need help and would not otherwise be able to afford high-quality legal representation.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS)
Tel: 410-230-2700. National organization for migrant and refugee advocacy and programming that works with many other groups in the U.S. They focus on refugee resettlement and community integration, alternatives to detention for asylum seekers, family reunification and foster care for unaccompanied migrant youth. Service area: Nationwide.

National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline
Tel: 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to BeFree (233733). A national, toll-free hotline that connects trafficking victims, professionals, and community members to information and referrals, as well as resources for training and technical assistance. Service area: Nationwide.

Northwest Immigrant Rights Projects
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project offers services in community education, impact litigation, direct legal services, support for survivors of domestic violence and other crimes, asylum, family services, support for children & youth, citizenship, Deferred Action & DACA, and detention and deportation defense.

World Wide Access to Pro-Bono Legal Advice for Asylum Seekers, By Country
This page shows the free or reduced priced legal services available in countries all over the world. See if your country has free legal services near you!

Anti Fraud Warning (English)
Read this information to protect yourself from people who are not real lawyers! There are people who will pretend to help you so they can keep your money. Learn how to recognize them and protect yourself!

Also, please check our Where to find legal resources  page to find someone who can offer you professional guidance and advice on your case.

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