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Understanding Asylum in the United States

Each year, thousands of asylum seekers enter the United States or reach the U.S. border in an effort to file for asylum. The process can be long, daunting, and heart-wrenching. Having an attorney help you or your loved one through the process may be the key to your success. Contact the Law Offices of Gopal Shah at (510) 402-4570today.

What is Asylum?

Asylum is legal protection granted to a person who has made it to the United States and is afraid to return to his or her home country. Asylum seekers can apply for asylum regardless of whether they entered the United States legally or not. For asylum status, you must be on U.S. soil to apply, or else you will be considered a refugee.  

Who is Eligible for Asylum Status?

Asylum can be granted to people who file for protection based on a well-founded fear of persecution on account of his or her:

  • race
  • religion
  • nationality
  • membership in a particular social group or
  • political opinion.

You cannot apply for asylum if you have been involved in certain activities, like:

  • failing to file for asylum within one year of being in the United States (unless you can show there are relevant and applicable extraordinary circumstances or changed circumstances);
  • having a previous asylum application denied; or
  • being able to be removed to a safe third country if there is a two- or multi-party agreement between the United States and the other country.

How Does a Person Get Asylum in the United States?

You must apply for asylum within one year of being in the United States. There are exceptions but not many. There are two basic asylum processes known as affirmative and defensive asylum processes. 

The affirmative asylum process involves individuals who are not in removal proceedings and who file Form I-589 to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Individuals appear before a USCIS Asylum Officer for a non-adversarial interview. If needed, you must provide a qualified interpreter for the hearing –the USCIS does not.

The defensive asylum process involves individuals who are either referred by the USCIS or who are already in the middle of removal proceedings. Asylum seekers who are referred to removal proceedings by an asylum officer have already submitted their applications for asylum, and so these applications will carry over to the removal proceedings. Individuals already in the removal proceedings for immigration violations can submit an asylum application at the time they go before the immigration judge. If an interpreter is needed, the immigration court will provide one all court hearings, including the asylum hearing.

In either case, if the application is denied, it can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and then to the appropriate U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal.

What are the Benefits of Asylum Status?

As an asylum, you have benefits, and these include being able to:

  • live and work in the United States;
  • file for a spouse or children to also come to the United States;
  • apply for permanent residency; and
  • travel to and from the United States.

Because you can apply for permanent residency, asylum is also an indirect means to U.S. citizenship.

What Can Bar a Grant of Asylum

If you are otherwise eligible for asylum, asylum status can still be barred. According to the USCIS, you can be barred if it was found that you:

  • were involved in the persecution of another person on account of that person's race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion;
  • were convicted of a serious crime making you a danger to the United States;
  • committed a serious nonpolitical crime outside the United States;
  • pose a danger to the United States or its citizens and residents;
  • were firmly resettled in another country before coming to the United States;
  • failing to file for asylum within one year of your entry in the United States (unless you can show there are relevant and applicable extraordinary circumstances or changed circumstances); or
  • are associated with or engaged in any kind of activity related to terrorism or terrorist organizations or are the spouse or child of someone who has been associated with or engaged in some form of terrorism.

Contact Immigration Attorney Gopal Shah Today for your Asylum Case

Asylum is a very important status to people who are most vulnerable in our communities. The rules on asylum, however, change often in the United States. Seek the counsel of an experienced asylum attorney in California to make sure your best application and your best chances are put forth timely and effectively.

At the Law Offices of Gopal Shah, we understand the trauma asylum seekers have endured. We also understand your fears and the deep need to win asylum. We represent clients before the USCIS Asylum offices in affirmative asylum cases as well as clients before Immigration Courts and the BIA in defensive asylum cases. Contact our office today to learn more and get the protection you deserve.


We at the Law Offices of Gopal Shah are committed to answering your questions about your Immigration law issues.

Attorney Gopal Shah offers personalized paid consultations to answer your Immigration questions or evaluate your case. He will listen to your immigration story and let you know how he can address your needs specifically. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.