People escaping political turmoil, violence and other danger by seeking safety in the United States are required to file Form I-589, the “Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal,” with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

What does asylum mean?

Asylum status is a form of protection available to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality or membership in a particular social group or political opinion and who are already in the U.S. or seeking admission at a port of entry. 

What is Form I-589?

If you are deemed eligible for asylum you may be permitted to remain in the United States. To apply for asylum, file a Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, within one year of your arrival to the United States. You may include your spouse and children under 21 years old who are in the United States on your application.

Once your application is approved, you may remain in the country and seek employment. While you can’t apply for permission to work at the same time as filing your asylum application, you can apply for employment authorization if 150 days have passed since you filed your complete asylum application and you haven’t received a decision yet on your application. If you are granted asylum you may work immediately. Some asylees choose to apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for convenience or identification purposes, but they are not necessary to work if you are an asylee.

Asylum eligibility requirements

You can usually apply for asylum if:

  • You have not been convicted of any crime
  • You have not yet been denied an application for asylum in the U.S. before
  • You are staying in the U.S. legally

Where can I obtain Form I-589?

Interested applications can download a copy of the form on the USCIS website. If you can't print the form or don't have internet access, you may also contact USCIS National Customer Service Center and request a copy of the form by calling their toll-free phone number: 1-800-375-5283.

Alternatively, applicants who are deaf or hearing-impaired my call 1-800-767-1833 to request  a form.

How much does it cost to file Form I-589?

There is no fee for Form I-589. However, due to the complexity of the application process, some applicants choose to seek legal counsel or hire an attorney for help compiling required documents and preparing for the interview.

An overview on completing Form I-589

All answers on the form should be in English and printed in black ink.For questions that don't apply to you or you're unable to answer, write "not applicable," "none," or "unknown" in the space provided. Be as detailed as possible with your answers. If you need more space than what is provided for each question, you may use Form I-589 Supplement A or Supplement B (which are included) to complete your answer and attach it to the form. 

When using supplement forms or additional sheets, indicate the number and question you are answering. USCIS encourages applicants to provide as much information and supporting documentation to strengthen their case, so be detailed when describing events and include dates. Provide your full name, signature, the date and your Alien Registration Number (A-number), if you have it.  

Once an application has been reviewed, an interview or hearing may then be required where applicants will answer questions related to information provided on the Form I-589 they have submitted. During the interview or hearing, you can provide additional information to support statements made in your application. 

How to complete each section of Form I-589

Part A.1 – Information about you

This part of the form will ask for your personal information, such as: 

  • Alien Registration Number (A-number), if you have one. If not, you may request that USCIS provide you with one
  • Your address of residence in the U.S. If your mailing address is different from your physical address, make sure to indicate this. If you would like to allow another person to pick up your mail at your mailing address, add his or her name in the “in care of” field.
  • Social Security Number (SSN), if applicable. You may write “not applicable” or “none” if you don’t have an SSN
  • Country of citizenship and nationality. If you have no legal right to reside in any country or if your nationality was removed from you, you may write “stateless”
  • Whether or not you’ve appeared before an immigration judge
  • Whether or not you have an I-94 number. If you arrived in the U.S. on a Visa Waiver Program, you may not be eligible for asylum. In such cases, seek the counsel of an immigration attorney before filing Form I-589
  • Passport information and other documents related to your travel to the U.S.
  • Information about your English comprehension

Part A.11 – Information about your spouse and children 

If you intend to include your spouse or children under the age of 21 in your application, you are required to fill out this section of the form. 

You must provide documentation to establish your relationship with any listed individuals:

  • Spouse. If the application includes the spouse, provide three copies of your marriage certificate. If you’re divorced, include three copies of any proof of the termination of the marriage.
  • Unmarried children. For any unmarried children under the age of 21 included on your application, provide three copies of their birth certificates. 

If you are unable to access these documents, you will be required to provide secondary evidence. Examples of acceptable forms of secondary evidence include: 

  • Medical records
  • School records
  • Religious records (baptismal certificates, etc.)

You may also provide affidavits from at least one person for any information provided. Individuals who can provide affidavits include relatives or other individuals with knowledge of your familial ties. Those who provide affidavits do not need to be citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S.

Affidavits should: 

  • Describe the circumstances or events in-full and explain how the individual providing the information came to know of this information
  • Be sworn to or affirmed by individuals who were living at the time of the events that are being described and have personal knowledge of the events
  • Include the complete name, address, date and location of birth of each individual providing the affidavit as well as descriptions of the relationships between the applicant and the individual issuing the affidavit 

If any secondary evidence or affidavits are submitted, you may also include reasons explaining why a primary evidence, such as a birth certificate or marriage certificate, was not available at the time of filing the application. 

Part B. Information about your application

In this section of Form I-589, you will be required to demonstrate why: 

  • You are eligible for asylum 
  • You are eligible for withholding of removal

In question 1, select the appropriate box that explains why you are completing an application for asylum. Other questions will ask for a “yes” or “no” answer.

Should you answer “yes” to any of the questions in this part of your application, provide a thorough explanation via Form I-589 Supplement B.

Part C. Additional information about your application

This section will also typically require “yes” or “no” answers. Additional information for affirmative answers can be written in full detail in Form I-589 Supplement B or on additional pieces of paper.

Part D. Your signature

You may need to indicate in this section whether you’ve received help completing your application for asylum from individuals like an interpreter or an immigration lawyer. You will also need to provide your signature.

Part E. Signature of an individual who prepared Form I-589, other than yourself

If you had received help completing Form I-589 from someone who isn’t an immediate family member, that individual will also be required to sign the application and provide information such as his or her name, address as well as a contact number.

Part F. To be completed at an asylum interview, if applicable

Leave this section blank as it will be completed during your asylum interview. When your asylum is complete, you will be asked to sign this part of your application. 

Part G. To be completed at removal hearing, if applicable

This section should only be completed at the time of your removal proceedings if you applied for asylum as a defense. If you go before an immigration judge, you may be required to sign this part of Form I-589 at your hearing and in the presence of the judge.

Documents required for Form I-589

When you file Form I-589, you may need to prepare the following documents:

  • A signed original copy of your completed Form I-589 as well as original copies of any supplementary sheets and statements. You will only need to provide one copy of these documents. If you intend to submit additional supporting documents, you will be required to include two copies of each additional document with your application. You are advised to make and keep a copy of the completed Form I-589 and any supplementary sheets and statements for your own records 
  • Additional copies of your complete Form I-589 for all family members listed in Part A.11, including supplementary documents
  • Copies of all primary and secondary evidence proving your relationship with the individuals included in your application, such as your spouse or children. This evidence may include birth certificates, marriage certificates, school records, medical records, and religious records. Two copies of each evidence should be submitted
  • An original copy of affidavits to prove your relationships with the family members named in your application. One copy may be provided
  • A passport-sized photo of yourself as well as photos of any family members included in your application taken no longer than 30 days before filing the application and with your A-number written at the back of each photo, if available
  • Copies of passports and other travel documents such as Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, for you and all family members included in your application . Two copies of each document should be provided

Only send photocopies. Do not send original documents unless USCIS specifically requests them. Documents not in English should be translation and include written certification to attest to the validity of the quality of the translation.

Additional evidence

Any evidence that may help support your claim should be submitted along with Form I-589. If you do not have such supporting evidence, you will explain why it isn’t available on Supplement B.

Examples of supporting evidence may include:

  • Articles from newspapers that show the conditions in your home country
  • Affidavits from experts or witnesses that witnessed, first-hand, the situation(s) that you are describing
  • Photographs that illustrate the conditions or situations that you have described in your application
  • Personal statements from experts or witnesses
  • Live testimony from experts or witnesses

If you have trouble explaining the situations due to trauma, you may usually request the help of a mental health professional who can provide documentation as supporting evidence for your case along with your application.

The biometrics requirement

Foreign nationals who wish to apply for asylum are also typically subject to a biometrics check in which they must provide their fingerprints and photos in order for USCIS to complete a background check.

You will receive a written notification with the time and location of the biometric check, which is usually conducted at an Application Support Center (ASC). Failure to appear may result in delays or a denied application.

Form I-589 processing time

Processing times vary for applications for asylum, but you can generally expect to receive a request for an interview within 21 days of filing Form I-589.Once your interview with an asylum officer has been completed, your case will be further assessed. While there’s no fixed processing time for this application, a decision is usually reached after 180 days.

Denied applicants may still attend a hearing at an immigration court to provide further evidence to support the request for asylum.

The takeaway

For more resources on how to navigate your new life in the U.S., visit Nova Credit’s resource library where you can learn about everything from renting an apartment to finding the best credit cards for noncitizens. 

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