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Instructions and forms for Asylum including spouse and children in the U.S.

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Use these instructions to apply for asylum for yourself and your family, all of who are in the U.S.

Use these instructions if:

  • You are applying for asylum for yourself, and
  • You are not currently in immigration custody or proceedings.

You may also use these instructions if you would like to include your spouse and children that are currently in the United States.

Have you read the Frequently Asked Questions and related Articles?

These instructions are part of this TexasLawHelp.org Toolkit: Asylum. Before getting started, it’s important to read the Frequently Asked Questions and Articles included in the Toolkit.

WARNING! These instructions provide general information, not legal advice. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

You can print these instructions to use as a checklist.

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Step 1: Determine the date of your last arrival

You must apply for asylum within one year of your last arrival in the United States. If one year has passed since you arrived in the United States, you are no longer eligible to apply for asylum. However, you may still qualify for Withholding of Removal or for Convention Against Torture.

Step 2: Fill out Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal

You can find Form I-589 and the instructions for Form I-589 on the USCIS website, or by clicking here.

  • Remember, fill out the form completely and be honest with every answer. Do not guess as any incorrect information you put on your application could be considered a lie.
  • If you do not know an answer, write “UNKNOWN”. If the question does not apply to you, write, “N/A”. Do not leave any blanks.
  • Part B of the form will ask you for “Information About Your Application”. Be as detailed as possible with your answers in this section. If you do not have enough space to give a complete response, use the space provided in Supplement B, Form I-589. The supplement is included at the end of Form I-589. You may also use additional sheets of paper and attach them to your application if you need additional space.
  • If you would like to include your spouse and children that are currently in the United States with your asylum application, make sure you select “Yes” to question 21 of Supplement A, Form I-589. The supplement is included at the end of Form I-589.
  • Part E of the application should be filled out and signed if someone other than you filled out the asylum application.
  • Part F should be left blank. You will complete this section at your asylum interview.
  • Part G should also be left blank. This only applies to people who are in removal proceedings.

Gather and include all supporting evidence. If you do not have this supporting evidence, you will need to write an affidavit explaining why you do not have this evidence or may be asked to explain why you do not have this evidence at your interview. If any of the documents contain foreign language, you will be required to include a full English language certified translation.

You must include:

  • Two copies of documents that prove your relationship with each of the family members. This can include birth certificates, marriage certificates, or school records.
  • One passport-style photograph of yourself and of each family member that you are including in your application. The photo must be recent and cannot have been taken more than 30 days before you file your application. Make sure you print the person’s complete name and A-number on the back of each photograph.
  • Two copies of all passports or other travel documents in your possession for yourself and each family member included in the application.
  • Reasonably available evidence showing the general conditions of the country from which you are seeking asylum and the specific facts that support your asylum claim. This can include what is sometimes referred to as a “Country Conditions Report” or a “Human Rights Report” and may be found on the U.S. Department of State website. You may also include newspaper articles, written witness testimony, medical reports, and your own personal statement.

We also highly recommend that you include:

  • A cover letter. Although this is not required, we recommend you include a cover letter in your application. Here is a sample cover letter
  • Your own personal written declaration. This gives you the opportunity to tell your story without interruption. Make sure you include who you are, why you are seeking asylum, why you left your country, who you fear and why you fear them, what will happen if you return to your country, and how they will know you have returned to your country. Your declaration should be organized, easy to follow, and consistent with any other statements you have previously made.
  • Documents that support the facts in your asylum application. This can include items such as letters or statements from witnesses, medical reports showing how you were harmed, police records, photographs, and any other document that you believe will support your claim of fear of returning to your native country.
  • Documents that show you are a person of good moral character. This can include documents such as letters of recommendation from family, friends, employers, teachers, or any other person who knows your good character; letters from religious leaders; proof of volunteer work; and letters from mental health providers, counselors, or social workers.
Step 3: Assemble your Application for Asylum

Your application for asylum should be assembled in the following order:

  1. Cover Letter (see sample cover letter).
  2. Form I-589
  3. Identifying Documents
  4. Personal Written Declaration
  5. All Supporting Documents and Evidence
Step 4: File (turn in) your signed Application for Asylum

Make two copies of your application and any supporting documents. You must file your original application with the original signature and two copies of the application.

You should make and keep an additional copy of the completed application for your own records.

Each asylum application must be filed with one of the USCIS Service Centers. Depending on the state in which you live, you will file your application with the Texas Service Center, the California Service Center, the Nebraska Service Center, or the Vermont Service Center. To determine where you should file your application, go to the USCIS asylum information page and click on “Where to File”.

Before you file, make sure your original asylum application is signed on Part D of the application.

Step 5: Have your fingerprints taken

USCIS will send you a notice with your appointment information and the address of the Application Support Center or authorized Designated Law Enforcement Agency where you will need to go. Any applicant over the age of 14 will be required to have their fingerprints taken and a background security check done.

Step 6: Attend your asylum interview

USCIS will send you a notice with your appointment information and the address of the Asylum Office where you will need to go. You will be interviewed by an Asylum Officer who will ask you questions, including the reasons why you are applying for asylum. The Asylum Officer will also ask you questions to determine if you are barred from asylum.  Be as honest and detailed as possible with your answers. The information you share with the officer is confidential and, generally, cannot be shared with any other person.

On the day of your interview you should bring:

  • A form of identification, such as your passport, other travel or identification documents, or your I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, if you received one when you arrived in the United States.
  • The originals of any birth certificates, marriage certificates, or other documents you submitted with your application for asylum.
  • A copy of the asylum application, including any supporting documents you submitted with the application.
  • Your spouse and children must also attend the interview if they were included in your asylum application. They must also bring any form of identification they have in their possession.
  • A certified translation of any document you have that is not in English.

If English is not your first language, or you have difficulty speaking or understanding English, you may have an interpreter attend the interview with you. At the end of the interview, you will have time to make a statement to the officer or add any additional information you believe is important to your case that may not have been asked during the interview. 

You also have the right to have an attorney or representative with you at your interview; however, the government will not provide one for you. Additionally, your attorney or representative must submit Form G-28 to USCIS in order for them to accompany you to your interview.

In most cases, you will be notified of the decision in your case approximately two weeks after your interview. 

Step 7: Apply for Work Authorization

You cannot apply for work authorization at the same time that you apply for asylum. However, if at least 150 days have passed since USCIS received your asylum application, you may request work authorization by filing Form I-765. For more information on how to apply for work authorization while your asylum application is pending, go to Instructions for “Asylum Employment Authorization”.

If your asylum application is denied, you are not eligible to apply for work authorization.

If your asylum application is approved, you are authorized to work as soon as your asylum case is approved.

Step 8: After your Application for Asylum is granted

If your asylum application is granted, you now have the following benefits:

  • You are authorized to remain in the United States as an “asylee” and not be deported to the country from which you are seeking asylum.
  • You are authorized to immediately begin working.
  • You are eligible to apply for adjustment of status (green card) after one year.
  • You are eligible to apply for citizenship after five years.
Things to consider

Never present false or fraudulent documents. All documents submitted with your application will be used to determine if you are eligible for asylum. Giving false or fraudulent documents may result in your application being denied and you may be placed in removal proceedings. For this reason, you should personally review all documents prior to submitting your application.  Save all original documents, as USCIS may request to see originals of documents you submit.

If you choose to write your Declaration in a language other than English or if you have other documents such as witness letters in a language other than English, you must have them translated to English by a competent translator before you submit the application. You will need to include a “Certificate of Translation” for each translated document. Please note, you must submit a copy of the document in the original language, the translated copy, and the Certificate of Translation. (See a sample Certificate of Translation.)

While your asylum application is pending, you will be permitted to remain in the United States. If after your asylum interview the asylum officer determines that you are not eligible for asylum, you may be placed in removal proceedings and the asylum officer may refer your application to the Immigration Court. The same is true for any family members you include in your asylum application.

You cannot travel outside the United States without Advance Parole (permission). If you do not have Advance Parole to travel, USCIS will assume that you have abandoned your asylum application. If you have Advance Parole and return to the country from which you are seeking asylum, USCIS will presume you have abandoned your asylum application. You will need to request Advance Parole directly from USCIS.