Applying for Asylum in DC

In this page, a DC asylum lawyer with our firm discusses the process of applying for asylum in the United States. If you’d like to learn about how this general information applies to your unique case, then please call our law firm and speak with a lawyer in person.

Asylum Application Process

There are two different types of asylum cases; one is affirmative and one is defensive. The affirmative application is for someone who has arrived here in the United States and they want to seek asylum from the government. They are not yet in removal proceedings, meaning that they don’t yet have a case open in front of the immigration court. In those cases, the person submits their asylum application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They are the ones that will evaluate the application. The person will fill out and file the application, and then USCIS will schedule the person for an interview at the local field office.

About Asylum Interviews

The interviews don’t involve any opposing counsel, so it’s not like a trial; there is a supposedly neutral asylum officer from USCIS who will interview the person about their claim. If the application is denied at the local USCIS office, then USCIS will refer the case to the immigration judge. The person will have another chance to defend themselves from deportation by presenting their asylum claim before an immigration court. The other way of applying for asylum is by going straight to the immigration court and doing a defensive application. People who submit the defensive application are those who are already in removal proceedings, so they are already before the immigration court. Once a person has an open case in the immigration court, they don’t have the option of applying affirmatively with USCIS.

What is a Defensive Application?

A defensive application is submitted when somebody who is already in deportation proceedings in front of an immigration judge uses their asylum application to defend themselves against that deportation. It is presented in front of the immigration judge in immigration court as opposed to a USCIS adjudicator.

Application Deadlines and Extensions

The deadline is that you need to submit your asylum application one year after you enter the United States. This means one year after the date of entry. If you’re submitting your asylum application after that one-year deadline, it is possible to be approved but you need to prove extraordinary circumstances were behind your failure to submit. One possibility is to show that you maybe had a medical emergency or some sort of extreme or unusual circumstance that prevented you from understanding your responsibility to submit the application within a year. It’s a pretty high bar, so it’s much better to submit it within one year.

Documented Changes to Your Home Country

One other way in which you can apply for asylum outside of that one-year deadline is if there have been documented changes in the conditions of your home country since you entered the U.S. For instance, if you entered the United States from a certain country, lived here for three years, and you never applied for asylum but after that third year there was a civil war in your country which made it impossible for you to return, then you could make the argument that the clock for the one-year deadline should start when that country’s conditions changed and not when you actually entered the country.

How Can an Immigration Attorney Help?

Asylum is a very complex type of application, especially when you’re attempting to prove that you’re a member of a particular social group. It’s very important to be familiar with the case law surrounding who does and does not qualify for asylum benefits in the U.S. Also, one of the most important elements of the asylum application, whether it’s affirmative or defensive, is providing evidence to support your claim.

You need to provide a substantial body of evidence that proves to the government that these conditions exist in your home country, first of all, and also that you are a member of the group that you say you are a member of, whether it’s race, political opinion, religion, or a particular social group. No matter which type of group you are claiming to be a member of, you need to submit evidence that you really are a part of that group. So there are a lot of different elements that need to be addressed.

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