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Legal Information: Federal

Immigration

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Updated: 
December 17, 2020

How do I apply for asylum? How long after arriving in the U.S. do I have to apply?

    If you are not in immigration detention or involved in an immigration court proceeding, you can file your application at a local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum office. This is known as an affirmative asylum process.

    If you are in immigration detention or involved in an immigration court proceeding, you can ask the immigration judge for asylum as a defense against removal from the U.S. This is known as a defensive asylum process.1

    Either way, you must apply for asylum within one year of the date of your last arrival in the U.S. However, there can be an exception to the one-year filing deadline if you can show that:

    1. there are:
      • “changed” circumstances that materially affect your eligibility for asylum; or
      • “extraordinary” circumstances relating to the delay in filing; and
    2. you filed within a reasonable amount of time given those circumstances.2

    In order to know what circumstances can be considered “changed” or “extraordinary,” it’s important to work with an asylum lawyer who is up-to-date on the latest policies and court cases. To find a list of legal resources in your area, please see Finding a Lawyer and select your state or see our National Organizations Immigration page.

    1 USCIS website
    2 8 CFR § 208.4(a)(2); INA § 208(a)(2)(B), (a)(2)(D); 8 USC § 1158(a)(2)(B),(a)(2)(D)