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Seeking safety: Asylum decisions explained

On Behalf of | May 2, 2024 | Firm News

The concept of asylum is deeply embedded in American values, symbolizing the country’s commitment to human rights and the protection of the vulnerable. Historically, the U.S. has offered a hand to those in need, embodying the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The process of seeking asylum has evolved in modern times, but its essence remains a testament to the nation’s enduring spirit of refuge and freedom.

Applying for asylum is a legal process available to individuals physically present in the United States and who fear persecution in their home country due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. To apply, one must submit a Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, within one year of arrival. This process does not initially involve immigration court and is initiated regardless of the individual’s current immigration status. Still, it’s recommended that applicants work with attorneys who handle asylum applications.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency that processes asylum applications. Asylum seekers are interviewed by a USCIS officer specially trained to handle sensitive cases and assess the credibility of the applicant’s fears. If approved, the individual or family can remain in the U.S. legally, obtain a work permit, and eventually apply for permanent residency.

Potential USCIS decisions

When seeking asylum in the U.S., the outcome of your application can vary greatly. Here’s a concise overview of the different types of decisions that the USCIS may issue:

Grant of Asylum: A Secure Future

Being granted asylum means you and your eligible family members can live and work in the U.S. You’ll receive documents to prove your status, and you’ll be able to apply for various benefits. Your asylum does not expire, but it can end if your fear of persecution is no longer justified or you’ve committed certain crimes.

Referral to Immigration Court: A Second Look

If your application isn’t approved and you’re in the U.S. unlawfully, your case will go to an immigration court. This decision is not a denial but rather a transfer for a fresh review by a judge. You’ll be given a court date and do not need to reapply.

Sending Your Application to Immigration Court: Specific Cases

Sometimes, USCIS bypasses the decision-making process on your application and sends it straight to court. This decision usually happens if you’ve already received a Notice to Appear from the Department of Homeland Security. Immigration court will then handle your case.

Notice of Intent to Deny: Time to Respond

A Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) is issued if you’re found ineligible for asylum but have legal status in the U.S. You’ll have 16 days to dispute the reasons given or present new evidence. Failure to respond on time can result in denial, but a good response may lead to approval.

Final Denial: When to Reapply

A final denial happens if you don’t adequately respond to a NOID. You can’t appeal this decision but can reapply for asylum if your circumstances change significantly.

Next steps

Each decision has implications and next steps, shaping the journey of those seeking refuge in the United States. The immigration attorney who strategically guided the asylum seekers through this application process can continue that role as immigrants determine what they should do next.