The Affirmative Asylum Process at a Glance

STEP ONE: Asylum-Seeker Arrives in the United States

An asylum-seeker is generally eligible to apply for asylum under INA § 208(a) if he or she:

  • » is arriving in or physically present in the United States, and
  • » files within one year of arriving in the United States or establishes that an exception applies.

STEP TWO: Asylum-Seeker Applies for Asylum

Asylum-seeker files Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, with the appropriate Service Center within one year of last arrival in the United States (unless an exception applies).

STEP THREE: Applicant is Fingerprinted and Background Security Checks Conducted

Applicants between 14 and 79 years of age receive a notice from the Service Center to go to an Application Support Center or authorized Designated Law Enforcement Agency to have their fingerprints taken.

STEP FOUR: Applicant Receives Interview Notice

In most cases, an applicant will receive a notice stating the date, location, and time of the asylum interview within 21 days after the applicant mailed a complete Form I-589 to the Service Center.

STEP FIVE: Applicant is Interviewed by an Asylum Officer

The applicant is interviewed by an Asylum Officer at either:

  • » one of the eight asylum offices located in Arlington, VA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; Newark (Lyndhurst), NJ; New York (Rosedale), NY; and San Francisco, CA – OR
  • » a district office

In the majority of cases, the applicant is interviewed within 43 days after the filing date. The exception is for those who are interviewed at the district offices. Asylum officers travel to certain district offices to interview applicants who live far from the eight asylum offices.

STEP SIX: Asylum Officer Makes Determination on Eligibility and Supervisory Asylum Officer Reviews the Decision

The Asylum Officer determines whether the applicant:

  • » meets the definition of a refugee in INA § 101(a)(42)(A), and
  • » is barred from being granted asylum under INA § 208(b)(2).

A Supervisory Asylum Officer reviews the Asylum Officer’s decision to determine if it is consistent with the law. Depending on the case, the Supervisory Asylum Officer may refer the decision to Asylum Division Headquarters staff for review.

STEP SEVEN: Applicant Receives Decision

In most cases, the applicant returns to the asylum office to pick up the decision two weeks after the interview was conducted.

The applicant will generally receive the decision 60 days after the filing date.

Longer processing times may be required for an applicant who is currently in valid status, was interviewed at a district office, or whose case is being reviewed by Asylum Division Headquarters staff. The decision is generally mailed to the applicant in these situations.

For more detailed information on the affirmative asylum process see The Affirmative Asylum Procedures Manual.