Los Angeles is a city of immigrants and, for some, the first destination for asylum seekers. But you don’t have to be an immigration lawyer to have heard of asylum or political asylum. But very few people actually know what the immigration laws specifically says about asylum.
As an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles, I consider asylum an extremely complicated, nuanced form of immigration relief. Although every case is different and results depend on the details of each client’s situation, in Immigration Court, people represented by immigration lawyers are about 5 times as likely to win asylum as those without an attorney.
Here is some basic information about asylum and the various requirements and benefits.
How do I apply for asylum in the U.S.?
There are 2 different ways to apply for asylum in the United States depending on whether you have a hearing in Immigration Court.
Affirmative Asylum: Applications are submitted by people who are in the United States but are not in removal or deportation proceedings and who do not have a hearing in Immigration Court. Removal or deportation proceedings begin when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) serves you with a Notice to Appear telling you to report to Immigration Court for a hearing. If you are not in removal or deportation proceedings, generally you file for asylum affirmatively by submitting your I-589 application for asylum to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). You will then be notified about an interview at the USCIS Los Angeles District Office or the locale USCIS near you where an immigration officer will ask you about your claim for asylum.
Defensive Asylum: If you are in removal or deportation proceedings, except in certain cases where you were a child when you entered the U.S., you file for asylum defensively by submitting your application to the Immigration Court in Los Angeles or the immigration court in the jurisdiction where you live. The Immigration Court will then schedule your case for a hearing where you can present your case.
How long does it take to get an asylum interview?
The delays can be frustrating. But due to immigration case backlogs, your asylum interview or hearing may take place anywhere from several months to several years after you file your application. Having an immigration lawyer can sometimes affect the timing of your case in a way that might be a benefit you.
New procedures for filing asylum application in Immigration Court!
On September 14, 2016, the rules for filing asylum applications in Immigration Court changed. In the past, you were required to wait until a scheduled hearing to file your application directly with the Immigration Judge. But now, you can now file your application by mail or at the court’s filing window. If you have a future immigration court hearing scheduled, there is no reason to delay speaking with an attorney as you may now be able to filing your asylum application immediately.
Do I have to file for asylum within one year of coming to the U.S.?
U.S. immigration laws require you to file for asylum within one year of entering the United States. Here are a few exceptions to this one-year deadline for asylum:
Changed Circumstances that affect your eligibility for asylum (for example: changes in the conditions in your home country, changes in immigration law, changes to your personal circumstances such as becoming a political activist or converting to another religion or being more open about your sexual orientation (i.e. coming out)); or
Extraordinary Circumstances that explain why you didn’t file within the first year of being in the U.S. such as, for instance, a medical or psychological issue, hospitalization or post-traumatic stress disorder.
But even if one of the exceptions applies to you, you must still apply within a “reasonable time” after the circumstances that fit the exception took place. An immigration lawyer can help you decide whether your case might fall under one of the exceptions to the one year filing deadline.
Can I win asylum because of crime and violence in my country?
Asylum depends heavily on the specific facts of your life. While the general danger presented by crime, violence, and war in your home country is part of any asylum application, it’s usually not enough on its own to win asylum. An immigration lawyer can analyze your personal history and help identify the facts of your life and those conditions in your country that are most relevant to your claim for asylum in the U.S.
How do I win asylum in the U.S.?
The key to winning an asylum claim is to show either that you previously suffered “persecution” (more than just discrimination or harassment), or that you have a well-founded fear of future persecution in your country. Immigration laws say that the persecution you suffered or fear you will suffer must be for specific reasons. Those reasons are your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in what the law calls a “particular social group.” You also have to be able to show that the persecution was or will be inflicted by the government of your country or some other person or group that the government cannot or will not control. An effective immigration lawyer can help you figure out if your case meets these criteria and can work with you to demonstrate to the immigration officer or judge exactly how your case fits those elements.
Immigration laws places the burden on you to prove all of the facts necessary to show that you are eligible for asylum. An immigration lawyer can help guide you through all of these many requirements and explain to you what kind of evidence is necessary to have the best possible chance of winning asylum in the U.S.
What is a particular social group?
If you have suffered persecution in the past or you fear future harm that is not related to your race, religion, nationality, or political opinion, you may still be eligible for asylum if you face harm due to your membership in a “particular social group.” A particular social group is a group that involves characteristics you can’t or shouldn’t have to change (such as your gender, sexual orientation, family relationships, or past life experiences), that is distinct (meaning that it’s easy to define who is and isn’t part of the group), and that the rest of society in your country views as being somehow different. In many cases, defining your particular social group to meet the many legal requirements can be the most important and difficult part of winning your case. An experienced asylum lawyer can help you define your particular social group in way that stands the best chance of being legally recognized by U.S. immigration authorities.
Can applying for asylum get me a work permit?
A work permit (sometimes called an Employment Authorization Document or “EAD”) is an important immigration benefit available to those who apply for asylum. But your eligibility for the work permit depends on a variety of different factors, including how quickly the court or the asylum office can schedule your case to be heard. Qualifying for a work permit based on an asylum application requires you to take a series of specific steps within a specific period of time, and missing one of these steps could prevent you from qualifying at all. Your current immigration status also affects your eligibility, as well as the amount of time it will take you to get your work permit.
How soon can I get a work permit after applying for asylum?
If applying for asylum is your only basis for requesting a work permit (and depending on how you entered the U.S.), you must generally wait 150 days from the time your I-589 asylum application is filed to apply for your work permit, and you cannot be issued a work permit until 180 days after you file your application. In practice, because of delays by the government, it can often take much longer than 180 days from the date the application is filed for you, as a qualifying asylum applicant, to receive your work permit. If the immigration agency is taking an unnecessarily long time to approve or issue your work permit, a lawyer can sometimes help speed the process up or resolve the delay.
What happens if I win asylum?
If you win asylum in the U.S., you will have asylee status and can:
- Live and work legally in the United States indefinitely;
- File an I-730 asylee / refugee relative petition that will bring your children and spouse to the United States to join you; and
- Apply for apply for a green card after one year of being an asylee.
But your immigration case is not over once you win asylum, since you will still have a variety of legal obligations that an immigration lawyer can help make sure you comply with. It is legally possible to gain U.S. citizenship six years after being granted asylum (five years after getting a green card), but there are many additional requirements to meet and evidence to produce to make that happen. Staying in touch with an immigration lawyer even after you are granted asylum is important to continue your path to citizenship, and to ensure you don’t do anything that could put you in danger of losing your asylum status.
Can I go back to my country if I’m granted asylum?
Immigration laws do not prohibit you from traveling back to your country after being granted asylum in the United States, but returning to your country may undermine the basis of your asylum claim, i.e., that you are or were genuinely afraid of suffering harm there. Unless you are a U.S. citizen, you should always consult with an immigration lawyer before any international travel, as leaving the country may permanently affect your ability to return in the future.
What if I’m not eligible for asylum but am still afraid to go back to my country?
Even if you aren’t eligible for asylum, there are other, somewhat similar forms of immigration relief you can be granted based on a fear of returning to your country. These include:
- Withholding of Removal
- CAT (protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture).
While the application processes for these protections are similar to applying for asylum, in many cases winning withholding of removal or protection under the CAT is more difficult than winning asylum. An experienced immigration lawyer can give you your best chance of being granted these forms of protection.
Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer Joshua Goldstein can help
If you live in the Los Angeles area, the help of an effective and experienced asylum lawyer can make all the difference in their outcome of your immigration case. At the Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C., we have a reputation throughout Los Angeles and Southern California for being persistent and diligent and for getting successful results for clients who seek asylum.
Our team of Los Angeles attorneys use our considerable experience to help win your asylum case. If you have questions regarding the asylum application process in Los Angeles, please give our team a call today at (213) 262-2000.