The United States is committed to protecting human rights. Because of this, citizens of other nations may apply for asylum in accordance with U.S. immigration law. The law states that if an individual has suffered past persecution or has a reasonable fear of persecution in the future upon return to their home country because of religion, race, political opinion, national origin, or belonging to a particular social group, they may apply for asylum in the United States. Particular social groups referred to are those which are based on inflexible character traits or those traits that should not be changed through force. Homosexuals, transgendered peoples, bisexuals, and members of specific ethnic groups are all examples of these social groups.

Feared persecution is defined as harm that is serious enough to be considered a severe violation of basic human rights. Threats against the life or liberty of that individual are examples of persecution. Under U.S. law, there is no restriction on the number of people allowed to be granted asylum. Families may apply together if spouses and children are in the U.S. as well. Children must be unmarried and under the age of 21 to be included.

Individuals who are granted asylum are allowed to remain in the United States to live and work permanently, including spouses and unmarried children. One year after being granted asylee status, the individual may apply to become a Green Card holder, and eventually apply for citizenship.


Asylum in the United States may be obtained two ways: Affirmative asylum or defensive asylum.


To follow the affirmative asylum process, the individual must be within the U.S. already. Their current immigration status or method of arrival is not relevant, as long as they are physically present in the country when they intend to apply.

While in the U.S., the individual is required to apply for asylum within one year of their latest arrival date. If evidence can be shown that the individual’s eligibility for asylum status has changed since their arrival, or that extraordinary circumstances caused a delay, the individual may delay their application. It is still expected that they begin the process within a reasonable timeframe based on the delays.

If these requirements are met, the individual seeking asylum must complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, and submit it to the relevant offices.

Asylum seekers whose applications are not approved and who do not have current legal immigration status will have a Notice to Appear sent by USCIS. The individual will be referred to an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review. The case will be brought forth in a court hearing with the judge.


Individuals can apply for asylum in defense against removal procedures by the DHS. To apply for defensive asylum, the individual must already be in the proceedings for removal by the immigration court of the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Unlike affirmative asylum proceedings, defensive asylum cases are handled in a manner similar to typical courtroom proceedings. Both the individual asylum seeker and the government will present their arguments. Asylum seekers are advised to have an attorney present for the hearings, because of the courtroom-type procedures.

When the hearing has concluded, the Immigration Judge will either grant or deny asylum. If they are found to be ineligible for asylum, the judge will then determine if that individual is eligible to seek out other forms of relief from the government. If the individual is ineligible for other relief, removal from the U.S. will be ordered by the judge. Appeals to the judge’s decision can be made by the asylum seeker or the government if they are not satisfied with the results.

Individuals granted asylum by either method are able to apply for a Social Security Card, Employee Authorization Document, and Green Card. The asylee may also apply for an extension of immigration benefits to their spouse and unmarried children, granted that those children are under 21 years old.
U.S. asylum law is complex in its design and is meant for those who are in true need of help based on the stated circumstances. Because there is no assigned cap on the number of people allowed to be granted asylum, there are frequent cases of fraudulent claims. If you are seriously considering applying for asylum, it can be beneficial to work with an asylum attorney.

Fady Eskandar is an asylum attorney in Anaheim with a broad understanding of United States’ immigration laws. He can assist you with affirmative or defensive asylum applications. Please contact our firm for a free consultation about your specific case, and to get more information, go to

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