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Legal Information: Federal


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Laws current as of December 17, 2020

If I plan on coming into the U.S. by crossing the border, how do I ask for asylum?

In order to ensure that people fleeing persecution who arrive at the U.S. border are not immediately turned away, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are supposed to ask people without a valid visa or immigration status if they fear persecution in their homeland. If you say “yes,” you should get what is called a credible fear interview. During the credible fear interview, you will be asked a series of questions about what fear you have related to returning to your homeland. If you “pass” the credible fear interview, which means that the officer finds that there is a “significant possibility” of winning on a claim for asylum, then you should receive a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court and will be placed in removal proceedings before a judge where you can ask the immigration judge for asylum and try to prove your case.

However, the government frequently makes changes to this system. Do not assume that anyone in our immigration system will ever ask you if you fear going back to your home country. Instead, be ready to say it for yourself, more than once if necessary, and say why you fear being sent back to your home country. Ideally, you should have the name and phone number of a lawyer handy who you met prior to arriving in the U.S. – if so, ask to call your lawyer or tell the officers to call your lawyer if they won’t let you call her or him.

You can read more information about how to pass a credible fear interview on the Immigration Equality website.