What Is the Deadline for Seeking Asylum in the United States?

There are two main deadlines to keep in mind if you are seeking asylum. One deadline exists for what are known as affirmative requests for seeking asylum, while another deadline applies to those requesting defensive asylum processing.

Deadline for Affirmative Asylum Processing

If you are already in the United States, but are not currently subject to removal proceedings, you will be seeking asylum through affirmative asylum processing. The deadline for you to submit your asylum request is one year from the time of your entry into the United States. Even though you have a year, you should submit your request while you are still subject to a "well-founded fear" of persecution. If your native country undergoes political changes while your application is pending, and you would no longer be subject to persecution there, you will not be eligible for asylum relief.

Thus, the main deadlines for affirmative asylum processing are within one year and while still subject to persecution. Immigration law does provide some limited exceptions to the one year deadline. Exceptions that may warrant a late filing include:

  • Conditions in your home country (e.g. coup, natural disaster) delayed your filing;
  • Changes in your own circumstances (e.g. health reasons);
  • Other extraordinary events beyond your control (e.g. technical defects, illness of your attorney) prevented an earlier filing.

The asylum application includes a section that allows you to explain why you missed the filing deadline.

Deadline for Defensive Asylum Processing

The second deadline affects requests for defensive asylum processing. If you are subject to removal proceedings and you are trying to prevent removal by seeking asylum relief, you will be seeking asylum through defensive processing. The applicable deadline here is that you must make your request for defensive processing before the removal proceedings are concluded. If you wait to invoke defensive asylum processing until after you have been deported, you will no longer be eligible for asylum status (because you are no longer physically in the United States). Failure to raise the issue will result in a forfeiture of this relief.

The procedural aspects of applying for asylum can be confusing and frustrating, especially when you are already subject to difficult circumstances in your home country. A qualified immigration attorney can help eliminate the confusion and preserve the different types of asylum relief applicable to your situation.