Are You a Legal Professional?

Refugee Asylum Basics

Individuals who have been persecuted (or fear they will be persecuted) on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group may be eligible for asylum or refugee status in the U.S. If you are seeking asylum for yourself or a loved one for the first time, this is the place to start. This section includes articles that describe the basic rules surrounding asylum and refugee status, and answers common questions about asylum/refugee eligibility and claims. The articles below also explain immigration law process and the types of outcomes you can expect from an asylum case.

The Application

An asylum claim begins with the filing of an application for asylum either at the port of entry or by sending the application form to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The application must be filed within a year of entering the United States unless there were changes in circumstances that created the claim or if other extraordinary circumstances prevented filing within the initial year.

The Interview

All asylum applicants are interviewed by an asylum officer or immigration judge who will determine whether their claim will be granted. Interviews often involve close questioning about the applicant's claims and about the documented conditions within the applicant's home country.

The Decision

After examining the evidence and interviewing the applicant the asylum officer or immigration judge issues an approval or denial of the claim. If approved, the asylee may subsequently apply for permanent resident status through another process. If denied, the applicant may appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Types of Asylum Decisions

Once an application has been submitted and an interview has taken place there are a number of possible outcomes to an asylum claim.

  • Grant of Asylum: An approved application is granted and an I-94 document is issued indicating that the person has lawful status in the United States.
  • Recommended Approval: An asylum officer who has examined the case and found it eligible for approval but is still waiting the results of the necessary background investigation may provide a recommended approval until the checks are complete. A recommended approval provides some, but not all of the benefits of a grant of asylum.
  • Referral to Immigration Court: If the asylum officer cannot approve an application and the applicant is out of status the case may be referred to an Immigration Judge. This is not a denial and the asylum application will be considered by the Judge anew.
  • Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID): An applicant who is in status and found eligible for denial may receive an NOID offering an opportunity to rebut any negative evidence.
  • Final Denial: A final denial provides the reasons for denying an asylum claim.

Learn more about the asylum process and possible outcomes. Access resources and find an attorney to provide assistance using the links below.

Learn About Refugee Asylum Basics