Asylum Applications: What Are 'Changed Circumstances'?

Asylum seekers and refugees are people who are trying to escape persecution in their home country. The key difference between these two classifications is where the person is located: asylum seekers are already on U.S. soil (or at a U.S. border), while refugees are located outside of the United States.

Asylum seekers who are granted asylum in the U.S. are allowed to remain legally in the country; however, their application for asylum must be filed within one year of their arrival. The one-year period is calculated from the date of the applicant's most recent arrival in the United States. However, there are certain exceptions to this one-year limit. Read on to learn more.

Exceptions to the One-Year Filing Deadline

Even if a foreign national fails to file an application for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States, he or she may still be eligible to apply for asylum if one of the following exceptions applies:

  • A change in circumstances significantly affects the foreign national's asylum eligibility, or
  • Extraordinary circumstances caused the delay in filing.

This article provides a brief overview of the "changed circumstances" exception to the one-year filing deadline for asylum seekers.

The Changed Circumstances Exception

In order for the changed circumstances exception to apply, the applicant must establish that the:

  • Changed circumstance occurred on or after April 1, 1997;
  • Changed circumstance significantly affects the applicant's eligibility for asylum; and
  • Asylum seeker's application was filed within a reasonable period of time, given the nature of the changed circumstance.

You're probably wondering what exactly qualifies as a "changed circumstance." The federal regulations provide the following list of examples of changed circumstances that may qualify for an exception to the one-year filing rule:

  • Changed conditions in the applicant's home country, or the country where the applicant last lived
  • Applicable changes in U.S. law
  • Recent changes in the applicant's personal circumstances (e.g. political activism or converting to a new religion), or
  • The applicant was a derivative beneficiary in a previous immigration application and the qualifying relationship ends (e.g. the applicant's spousal or parent-child relationship ends)

What Qualifies as a 'Reasonable Period of Time'?

Asylum seekers who qualify for the changed or extraordinary circumstances exception must still submit their application for asylum within a reasonable period of time. But what qualifies as a "reasonable period of time"? The answer depends on whether the delay was reasonable given the facts of the case.

The key question is whether or not a reasonable person would have filed the application for asylum sooner. When this determination is being made, applicants are given the benefit of the doubt, and asylum officers take into consideration the following facts:

  • The applicant's level of education and sophistication,
  • How long it took the applicant to obtain legal assistance,
  • The effects of any persecution or illness,
  • When the applicant became aware of the changed circumstance, and
  • Any other relevant factors that should be considered.

Additional Resources

Immigration law changes frequently, so check back for updates. If you have questions about the changed circumstances exception or asylum applications in general, you should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with asylum-related issues.