Many people call this process a political asylum, however the right name is asylum, because political asylum is one of the five grounds. Foreign nationals can ask for asylum if they are persecuted in their home country for sexual orientation, religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

You must have subjective and objective grounds to obtain asylum in the USA

  • Subjective grounds are your personal opinion, feelings, apprehensions, a story about what has happened to you and what you are afraid of in the future.
  • Objective grounds are documents, protocols, newspaper articles, certificates, precedents etc.

So, the petitioner must have subjective apprehensions of coming back to the homeland, confirming them with objective evidence.

Legality of entering the USA and current status of petitioner do not matter (so, you can be an illegal immigrant).

Once you have applied for asylum, you become a lawful member of American society.

Having obtained asylum, you can petition to bring your relatives to the USA.

When to submit the application

You can apply for asylum if you are on the territory of the USA for no more than one year. If this period has determined, you can still submit the application, explaining the reasons. For example, it can be a sudden aggravation of political situation in the applicant’s country or changes of a personal situation.


1) File an application for asylum

You need to complete Form I-589 (Application for Asylum). See more information about the form here. You will also need to attach a detailed statement. You state facts of persecution on the part of the state or society in the past or fear of persecution in the future (less common variant) in this statement.
You will also need to submit evidence showing the facts of persecution (battering, orders on institution of criminal proceedings, local mass media articles, affidavits of witnesses, letters with threats).

2) Wait for an interview

Having submitted a case to USCIS, an applicant receives a document from immigration service that certifies the case being processed.
Since this moment even if you are an illegal immigrant, you acquire “quasi-legal” status. You and your family can stay in the USA until the decision on your case is held.
The waiting period used to be just 3 weeks earlier, now asylum applicants usually wait for an interview for about 3 years.

3) Receive an employment authorization and social security number.

Waiting for an interview, in 150 days after USCIS had received your case, you can file application for employment authorization (Form I-765, it can be completed with Immigrateful). After it you will be mailed your employment authorization in one or two months. The next step is a visit to Social Security Office, where you can receive your SSN.

4) Pass an interview

Further you will be appointed an interview with immigration officer. The aim of the interview is to ascertain the facts presented in your statement. The applicant will be asked questions about the smallest details that’s why try to answer calmly, sufficiently, specifically and avoid ambiguity. An attorney and interpreter may be present at an interview, if an applicant does not speak English well. An attorney may ask an applicant questions in the end of the conversation. An attorney may also summarize an interview and make a statement on the case to an immigration officer verbally or in writing.
Usually in two weeks after the interview you come to immigration service to receive a decision on your case.
To increase your chances of positive outcome it is important to stick to all the requirements of asylum legal procedure, to collect a lot of evidence and to ensure the support of immigration attorney.
In case of denial your case is forwarded to immigration court, where your deportation case will be processed. You cannot go to the court hearing without an attorney. If your asylum case is denied in court, you can file an appeal. It is also done with an attorney.

5) Obtain a green card, citizenship.

If you have been granted asylum based on the results of the interview, then in a year of residing in the USA you can apply for a green card, having completed Form I-485. Green card will be predated by one year. In four years after you have received a green card, you can apply for US citizenship (see more information here). Before obtaining citizenship, a refugee cannot go to the country he/she fled from.

6) Bring a spouse and children

Once you have been granted asylum in the USA (but not later than in two years), you can bring your spouse and children, who stayed in your homeland, to the USA. Complete Form I-730 for it.

7) Receive a Travel Document

If you still need to leave the US territory after you have been granted asylum before obtaining a green card, you can apply for a travel passport. Complete Form I-131 for it.