Where Do I Apply for Asylum in the United States?

Immigration law provides for two ways to apply for asylum in the United States: affirmative asylum processing with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and defensive asylum processing with an immigration judge. The type of asylum processing you use will determine where and how you will file your request.

For affirmative processing, you submit your request directly to the border post (airport, seaport, or land crossing) or to the USCIS. How you entered is not as important as when you entered the United States. An application for affirmative asylum processing must be filed within one year of your entry. Where you reside within the U.S. will determine where you need to mail your application. USCIS has several service centers located throughout the United States. You should submit your application to the service center designated for your area. The USCIS website maintains a list of addresses for these centers. Failure to submit your application to the correct service center can cause delays in the processing of your affirmative asylum application.

If your application for affirmative asylum processing is denied by USCIS, you could be subject to removal proceedings. However, during the removal proceedings, you can file a second application for defensive asylum processing directly with the immigration judge hearing your case. Essentially, you are "defending" your unlawful entry into the United States through a request for asylum. You and your attorney can present evidence to the immigration judge supporting your request. Similarly, the attorney representing the government can present evidence as to why your asylum request should not be granted. If your defensive asylum processing request is granted, you will be allowed to remain in the United States, but if your request is denied, removal proceedings will continue. You do, however, have the right to appeal the immigration judge's decision. You will be allowed to remain in the United States while your asylum appeal is being processed.

The standards for eligibility and the administrative rules for processing asylum are frequently changed by court decisions, the legislature, and the USCIS. To make sure that your application is completed correctly, consult with an attorney that specializes in immigration law.