Asylum Application and Evidence

In general, you can apply for asylum within one year of entering the United States by submitting an asylum application, Form I-589. Where you submit the asylum application depends on whether you are applying for asylum in immigration court or with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Scroll down or click on the links below to read questions and answers from the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP). You can also watch this video about how to fill out your asylum application.

When do I need to apply for asylum? 

Generally, you must submit your asylum application (Form I-589) within one year of arriving in the United States. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Read more below. 

If I did not submit an asylum application within one year of entering the United States, can I still apply for asylum? 

Maybe! If you did not submit an asylum application within one year of arriving in the United States, you may still be able to apply for asylum depending on your situation. If your case fits one of these below situations, you may still be able to apply for asylum.

  • You are under 18 years old. In many cases, if you are under 18 years old, you may be able to apply for asylum even if you have been in the United States for more than a year. Read more about applying for asylum as a child.
  • Circumstances have changed since you first entered the United States. In other words, something is different about you or your country of origin and that makes you afraid to return to your country of origin. Here are some examples:
    • The conditions in your country of origin have changed and it would now be dangerous for you to return. For example, the country has a new leader that intends to harm people like you.
    • Your personal circumstances have changed and returning to your country of origin would now be dangerous for you. For example, you converted to a religion that is not allowed in your country of origin. Or, you recently decided to live openly as a gay person and it would be dangerous for you to return to your country of origin as a gay person.
    • You were originally included in a family member’s asylum application, but you no longer qualify to be included in their asylum application. For example, you were included in your spouse’s asylum application, but you and your spouse have divorced since filing the application.
  • You have other special circumstances. Here are some examples:
    • You had or currently have lawful status in the United States, such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), parole, or a valid visa.
    • You suffer from serious illness, physical disability, or mental disability.
    • You suffered a serious crime or domestic violence recently.
    • Your attorney committed fraud, and you filed a complaint against them.

If your case fits one of the above situations, you may still be able to apply for asylum after one year of entering the United States. However, you still need to apply as soon as possible. You will also need to submit proof about how you fit one of the above situations.

Also, even if you do not qualify for asylum, you may still qualify for other similar forms of protection under U.S. immigration law, such as withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). These are similar to asylum because they are also for people who are afraid of returning to their countries of origin. You can apply using the same form as the form for asylum, Form I-589

Is there a fee to file the asylum application?

No! Regardless of whether you are applying for asylum with USCIS or in immigration court, there is no fee to submit your asylum application.

Do I need to include that I am a member of ASAP in my asylum application?

No, you do NOT need to include information about ASAP in your asylum application (Form I-589). There are questions in the asylum application that ask about your membership in organizations (Questions 3.A and 3.B in Part B in the paper asylum application, and under “Party or group affiliations” in the online asylum application). However, these questions are only asking about organizations in your country of origin, not in the United States. So you do not need to include information about ASAP in your answer to these questions.

You do NOT need to attach your ASAP membership card to your asylum application.

Where do I file my asylum application?

Where you should file your asylum application depends on your situation. To understand where to file, you can answer the questions on this USCIS website. You can also read more below.

Most people who have a case in immigration court should file their asylum application with the immigration court.

  • Read instructions about how to file your asylum application in immigration court.
  • If you are not sure whether you have a case in immigration court, you can check this website or call the immigration court hotline at 1-800-898-7180. You can also read about other ways to know if you have a case in immigration court.

In some special circumstances, people with a case in immigration court should file their asylum application with USCIS by mail. These are the special circumstances:

People who do NOT have a case in immigration court should file their asylum application with USCIS, either by mail or online

  • If you do not have a case in immigration court, in general you should file your asylum application with USCIS. There are two ways to file with USCIS: by mail, or online.
  • If you would like to file your asylum application with USCIS by mail, read these instructions.
  • If you would like to file your asylum application with USCIS online, read these instructions. However, unfortunately not everyone is eligible to use the online filing system. You cannot apply online if you are in one of the situations described under the “Special Instructions” tab on this USCIS webpage. If you are in one of those situations, you will need to mail a paper asylum application to USCIS instead.

How do I file my asylum application in immigration court?

You can follow the steps below to apply for asylum in immigration court.

1. Complete your Form I-589.

  • Download or print Form I-589. The form is long and asks some hard questions. But do not let this discourage you! You can watch this video for step-by-step instructions about how to fill out the asylum application. You can also see Appendix F of this guide for more instructions.
  • Your answers must be written in English.
  • Read each question carefully. All of your answers should be complete, accurate, and truthful.
  • You may be able to include qualifying family members in your asylum case.
  • After you are done, review the entire application to catch any mistakes.
  • If you are filling out the application on paper and writing by hand, make sure that your handwriting is clear and easy to read. Use a black pen.
  • Remember to sign and date your application.

2. Prepare your application packet. 

  • Make 2 copies of your completed Form I-589 so that you have:
    • One original Form I-589 for the judge.
    • One copy for the government attorney.
    • One copy for you to keep for your records.
  • You may also need to prepare a certificate of service, if you are submitting your asylum application by mail or at the filing window of the immigration court. A certificate of service is a document that states that you sent a document to the government attorney. You can download and fill out this certificate of service.
  • You can include other supporting evidence.

3. Submit your application packet. You have three options for how to do this.

  • Option 1. You can submit your application packet in person during your hearing. You can hand your original asylum application and the two copies you prepared to the judge. The judge should stamp them. The judge should keep the original, and give you back the two copies. Give one of the copies to the government attorney, and keep the other copy for your records. This copy is your receipt proving that you submitted your asylum application.
  • Option 2. You can submit your asylum application packet in person at the filing window in immigration court. If you are planning to do this, you need to prepare a certificate of service.
    • Take the original asylum application, two copies, and a certificate of service to the filing window in your immigration court. The clerk should keep the original and the certificate of service. The clerk should stamp the copies and give them back to you.
    • Keep one copy for your records. The copy is your receipt proving that you submitted your asylum application.
    • The other copy needs to be sent to the government attorney. You can do this by taking the copy to the government attorney office, which is usually located in the same building as the immigration court, or by mailing it to the government attorney. You can find the addresses for government attorneys here.
  • Option 3. You can mail your asylum application packages to the immigration court and government attorney. If you are planning to do this, you need to prepare a certificate of service.
    • Make sure you use a mail service that offers tracking. For tips on how to mail documents, watch this video.
    • Mail the original asylum application, a copy of the application, and the certificate of service to the immigration court. You can find addresses of immigration courts here. In addition, make sure to include an envelope with your address and postage. The immigration court should stamp the copy of your asylum application and then mail it back to you using the envelope. If you do not include an envelope, they will not mail you your copy. The copy is your receipt proving that you submitted your asylum application. Keep this copy somewhere safe.
    • Mail another copy to the government attorney. You can find the addresses for government attorneys here.

4. Send documents to USCIS for your biometrics appointment (also called fingerprint appointment)

5. Continue with your asylum case in immigration court. 

How do I file my asylum application with USCIS by mail?

There are two ways that you can submit your asylum application to USCIS: by mail or online. You can follow the steps below to apply by mail. If you want to apply online instead, find instructions for applying online here.

1. Complete your Form I-589.

  • Download or print Form I-589. The form is long and asks some hard questions. But do not let this discourage you! You can watch this video for step-by-step instructions about how to fill out the asylum application. You can also see Appendix F of this guide for more instructions.
  • Your answers must be written in English.
  • Read each question carefully. All of your answers should be complete, accurate, and truthful.
  • You may be able to include qualifying family members in your asylum case.
  • After you are done, review the entire application to catch any mistakes.
  • If you are filling out the application on paper and writing by hand, make sure that your handwriting is clear and easy to read. Use a black pen.
  • Remember to sign and date your application.

2. Prepare your application packet. 

  • You can include the documents below, in this order. Do not staple the pages – you can use a paperclip, binder clip, or rubber bands instead to hold all the pages together.
  • Form G-1145 (optional). If you want, you can include Form G-1145 to receive notices about your application by text message or email.
  • Your completed Form I-589.
  • A copy of your passport, if you have one. If possible, include a copy of every page, including the front and back covers.
  • A copy of your Form I-94, if you have one. It may look like this, this, or this.
  • If you are including your spouse or child in your asylum case, you should also include:
    • A copy of a document that proves your family relationship – for example, a copy of birth certificate for a child or a copy of a marriage certificate for a spouse.
    • A copy of your family member’s passport and Form I-94, if they have one.
  • If you had an immigration court case in the past but it was dismissed, you can find more specific instructions here.
  • You can also attach other supporting evidence to your asylum application. You can also choose to submit them later. Read more about additional evidence here.
  • If a document is not in English, you should also include an English translation with a certificate of translation.

3. Make a copy of the whole packet and keep it for your records. 

4. Mail the original application packet to USCIS.

  • Make sure you use a mail service that offers tracking. For tips on how to mail documents, watch this video.
  • The USCIS address where you need to send your application packet depends on where you live. You can find the correct address by going to this USCIS webpage, and looking under “Where To File.”
  • However, if you are in one of the special situations described under the “Special Instructions” tab on this USCIS webpage, you have to submit your asylum application to a special processing center called the Asylum Vetting Center.

5. Continue with your asylum case with USCIS. 

How do I file my asylum application with USCIS online?

There are two ways that you can submit your asylum application to USCIS: by mail or online. Only some asylum seekers can apply online. If you are not sure, read this question to understand whether you can file online.

If you are eligible to file online, you can follow the steps below to apply online. If you want to apply by mail instead, find instructions for applying by mail here.

1. Log in or create your USCIS online account. 

  • Go to this USCIS online account website. This website is only available in English.
  • Next, log in to your USCIS account if you already have an account. If you do not have an account, click the blue sign up button to create an account. You can watch this USCIS video about how to create an online account.

2. Start the asylum application. 

  • If you are using a phone, click “Menu” in the top right corner, click “Account actions,” then click “File a form online.” If you are on a computer, click “My Account” in the top right corner, then click “File a form online.”
  • Next, select “I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal” in the drop down menu.
  • Click “Start form.”

3. Complete the asylum application. 

  • Most of the questions in the online asylum application are identical to the paper asylum application. You can watch this video for detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to fill out the paper asylum application. Below are some useful things to know when completing the online asylum application:
  • Pop-Up Window: When you are filling out the application online, you will likely see a pop-up window that looks similar to this:

If you would like to continue, choose “Allow” because the government only accepts asylum applications from people who are located in the United States. If you choose “Block”, the website will not allow you to proceed.

  • When was your most recent entry into the United States?: Under this question, you will be asked for your “Status when last admitted.” You will have to choose from a long drop-down menu.
    • If you entered the United States with parole or a specific type of visa (such as a B2 tourist visa or F1 student visa), choose that from the list.
    • If you are an asylum seeker who did not enter the United States with parole or a visa, you can choose “999 – Alien awaiting decision of asylum.” You can then leave “Date this status expires” blank.
    • If you are not sure what to choose, you can choose “ZN – Unknown.” You can then leave “Date this status expires” blank.
  • Blank questions: If you do not answer a required question, you will get an alert when you reach the “Review and Submit” section. You can then go back and answer. If you do not know an answer, you can write “unknown” or leave it blank.

4. Upload evidence.

  • You can upload evidence in the online form. There are size limits, so you may have to split large files into more than one file.
  • We recommend submitting a copy of your passport and Form I-94, if you have them.
  • If you are including your spouse or child in your asylum application, we recommend including:
    • A copy of a document that proves your family relationship – for example, a copy of birth certificate for a child or a copy of a marriage certificate for a spouse.
    • A copy of your family member’s passport and Form I-94, if they have them.
  • If a document is not in English, you should also include an English translation with a certificate of translation.
  • Some of the evidence categories may not apply to you. In that situation, you do not have to include evidence for that category, even if you get an alert that says you should provide evidence. For example, if you do not have a Cover Letter, you do not have to submit one. Or, if you do not have a spouse or children, you do not have to submit evidence for Family Identification.
  • You do not have to submit all evidence at the same time that you are submitting your online asylum application. You can submit more evidence later, before or during your asylum interview. Read more about additional evidence here.

5. Submit your application and get your receipt notice. 

  • Carefully review your application and evidence before you submit.
  • After you submit your asylum application, check your USCIS account frequently. You will not receive your receipt notice or other important notices by mail. Some people receive their receipt notice online in just 1 to 2 days.
  • You should be able to see and download a copy of your asylum application from your online account.

6. Continue with your asylum case with USCIS. 

Should I list my spouse or children in my asylum application?

Yes! There are 3 things to know about this process.

1. List any spouse or children you have. 

  • If you have a spouse or children, no matter where they live or how old they are, you should list them on your asylum application. You can provide information about them on Part A.II. on the paper asylum application (Form I-589) or in the “Your Family” section if you are filing online.

2. You can include qualifying family members in your asylum case. 

  • If you have a spouse or unmarried children under age 21 who are living in the United States, you may also be able to include them in your asylum case. If you do this, your spouse or children can generally apply for a work permit at the same time as you! And if you win asylum, they will win asylum too – even if your child has turned 21 by then. The steps to include your family members in your asylum case are different depending on if you are applying for asylum with USCIS or immigration court. Read more below.
  • USCIS:

If you are filing your asylum application with USCIS and want to include your family member in your case, answer “Yes” to the question “If in the U.S., is your spouse/this child to be included in this application?” This check box is in Part A.II. on the paper asylum application or on the “Your Family” section if you are filing online. All family members that you include must attend your asylum interview.

Note: If you file your asylum application with USCIS, but later your case is sent to immigration court, your family members may no longer be included in your asylum case. Read below about how to check if your cases are together in immigration court.

  • Immigration court: 

The process in immigration court is more complicated. To include your family member in your asylum case, your cases must be together in immigration court. This means that you have the same immigration judge, the same court dates, and you are listed together on court documents such as the Notice to Appear or Hearing Notice.

    • If your cases are already together in immigration court, your family member can automatically be included in your asylum case. When you complete your asylum application, answer “Yes” to the question in Part A.II, “If in the U.S., is your spouse/this child to be included in this application?” Each family member may also want to file their own separate asylum application, because then an immigration judge can grant other protections from deportation.
    • If you and your family members have separate cases in immigration court, you can all apply for asylum using separate applications. You can also consider requesting that your cases be combined. You may want to seek advice from an immigration attorney to help determine the best strategy for your family.
    • If your family member does not have a case in immigration court at all, they will not be included in your asylum case.

3. If you win asylum, you can petition for qualifying family members. 

  • If you cannot include your spouse or children in your asylum case but you later win asylum, you may still be able to request immigration status for them.
  • If you win asylum, you can file a petition called Form I-730 to request asylum for your spouse or unmarried children under age 21 who were not included in your asylum case. You can request asylum for these family members even if they are outside the United States or are living in the United States without immigration status. You must file Form I-730 within 2 years of winning asylum.
  • Also, if you win asylum, you can become a Permanent Resident after one year. Eventually, you can apply to become a citizen of the United States. Permanent Residents and U.S. citizens have additional options to request immigration status for more family members.

What is a certificate of service?

A certificate of service is a document that states that you sent a document to the government attorney. You only need certificates of service if you have an immigration court case! If you are applying for asylum with USCIS, you do not need this document.

If you have a case in immigration court, you may need a certificate of service when you submit your asylum application, or when you appeal your case to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

You can download and fill out this certificate of service.

How do I get a receipt for my asylum application?

The way to get a receipt showing that you submitted your asylum application (Form I-589) depends on whether you are submitting your application to USCIS or to the immigration court. Read here if you are not sure where to file your asylum application.

  1. If you are applying for asylum with USCIS by mail, USCIS should automatically mail you a receipt notice after they receive your asylum application. Read here if your receipt notice is delayed.
  2. If you are applying for asylum with USCIS online, USCIS should automatically post your receipt notice to your USCIS online account.
  3. If you are applying for asylum with the immigration court, the immigration court will not send you a receipt automatically. Instead, if you want proof of receipt, you need to take action. You may want a receipt because it is useful to have one when you apply for a work permit. Your proof of receipt is the first page of your asylum application stamped with the date of receipt by the immigration court.

If you have not submitted your asylum application yet, follow these instructions to request a stamped copy of your asylum application.

If you already submitted your asylum application to the immigration court, but you did not receive a copy of your asylum application with a date stamp, first you should check that the immigration court received your asylum application. Call the immigration court hotline at 1-800-898-7180. Press 1 for English, enter your A Number, press 1 to confirm your A number, and 1 again to confirm your name. Finally, press 2. If you hear a message indicating that a certain number of days is on your “clock,” this means that your asylum application was received by the court that number of days ago.

If you confirmed that the immigration court received your asylum application, and you want a copy with a date stamp, you can call your immigration court to find out how you can get a copy. You can find the contact information for your immigration court here.

I have a case in immigration court, but it does not appear on the automated hotline or website. How can I apply for asylum?

This can be a confusing situation. Some people know that they will have a case in immigration court, but when they check their immigration court case status, it says “the A Number information did not match a record in the system” or “no case found for this A Number.” If this situation applies to you, it is best to mail your asylum application (Form I-589) to USCIS within one year of entering the United States. This may seem confusing because your case will actually be in the immigration court, not with USCIS. However, this is the only way you can file your asylum application if the immigration court has not yet entered your information in their system yet.

How do I know if I am in this situation? 

You know that you are probably in this situation if both of the following statements are true:

  1. You know that you will have a case in immigration court (for example, because you received a Notice to Appear or you were detained by immigration officials after entering the United States), AND
  2. When you check your case status by calling the immigration court hotline at 1-800-898-7180 and after entering your A Number, the hotline says: “The A Number information you entered did not match a record in the system or the case has not been filed with the immigration court.” OR when you check your case status by entering your A Number on the immigration court website, it says “No case found for this A Number.”

If you are in this situation, you can take the steps described below to submit your asylum application. If you are not in this situation, read this question to find out how to submit your asylum application.

How can I apply for asylum in this situation?

To apply for asylum in this situation, you can follow these steps:

  1. Mail an asylum application to USCIS before the one-year deadline. You can follow these instructions to complete your asylum application package and mail it to the correct USCIS address. You cannot file for asylum online in this situation.
  2. Keep a copy of your application because you will need to submit it to the immigration court again later.
  3. After you submit your application, USCIS should send you a notice. Keep this notice in a safe place because it proves that you submitted your asylum application before the one year deadline. You can also include a copy of the notice when you apply for your work permit.
  4. The immigration court should eventually schedule you for your first hearing, known as a master calendar hearing. Check your case status every week so that you learn when your hearing is scheduled. At your hearing, it is important to tell the judge that you filed your asylum application before the one year deadline. You can bring a copy of the notice you received from USCIS and a copy of your asylum application.

What additional supporting evidence can I submit to support my asylum case?

You can submit different types of evidence to support your asylum case. This is usually a good idea, but it is not required. It is possible to win asylum based only on your own testimony during your immigration court hearing or your asylum interview. The evidence that you submit should answer these five key questions: 

  1. What was the harm you suffered in your country of origin, or what harm do you fear you may suffer if you have to go back to your country of origin?
  2. Who harmed you, or who would want to harm you? If you do not know for sure, who do you think it was?
  3. Why were you, or why will you be, a target for harm in your country of origin?
  4. Why are you not able to seek help or protection from the police or the government of your country of origin?
  5. Is there a safe place inside your country of origin where you can live?

You can watch this video that can help you think about these questions and prepare your asylum case.

Here are some examples of the kinds of evidence you can submit: 

However, every case is different! This list is not meant to be complete and the examples will not apply in every case.

  • A written declaration, describing any harm you suffered in the past, who harmed you, why they harmed you, whether you tried to get help from the police or the government of your country of origin, whether there is a safe place inside your country of origin that you can move to, and what you think might happen to you if you were to return to your country of origin.
  • Identity documents, such as your passport, birth certificate, and marriage certificate.
  • Police reports, if you made a report to the police about the harm you suffered.
  • Medical reports, showing any physical injuries you may have suffered.
  • Mental health evaluation, showing any mental harm you may have suffered.
  • Newspaper or magazine articles about the issues that make you afraid to return to your country of origin, or articles about bad things that happened to people who are similar to you in your country of origin.
  • Letters or declarations from people who know about what happened to you in your country of origin.
  • Photographs that show parts of your story. For example, the photos can show any harm you suffered, or your participation in a group or activity, if you believe your participation in that group or activity is making you a target for harm.
  • Text messages, Facebook messages, or any other written communication that contain threats made against you.
  • Membership cards or other official documents from a group, if you believe your membership in the group is making you a target for harm.
  • News articles or reports from national or international human rights organizations about the situation that you have fled from.
  • If you are applying for asylum more than 1 year after arriving in the United States, you can also submit evidence that shows why you should still be able to apply for asylum. Read more about exceptions to the 1 year deadline here.

You can also find more ideas beginning on page 13 of this guide, page 8 of this guide, and page 15 of this guide.

If you are afraid of going back to your country of origin because of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status, you can read this guide for more ideas.

Other tips: 

Please also remember that if any of the evidence is not in English, you will also need to include a translation and a certificate of translation.

Do not submit any fake or forged documents. Submitting fake documents can have bad consequences for your case. If you cannot get certain evidence, or getting it will put you or someone else in danger, then you can explain to the immigration judge or asylum officer why you could not get that evidence.

When do I need to submit supporting evidence?

You do not have to submit supporting evidence at the same time as your asylum application (Form I-589). Instead, you can wait until you are closer to your individual hearing in immigration court, or your USCIS asylum interview.

If you have a case in immigration court, you first need to submit your asylum application. Then, once your individual hearing is scheduled, you will need to submit additional evidence. The immigration judge should give you a deadline for submitting the evidence, usually at least 15 days before the individual hearing. Read more about applying for asylum in immigration court here, or watch these videos.

If you apply for asylum with USCIS, you will be scheduled for an interview in an asylum office after you submit your asylum application. You will need to submit your additional evidence before your interview, usually at least one week before your asylum interview. It should be sent directly to the asylum office where you will have the interview. You should read your asylum interview notice and follow the instructions. You can also bring additional evidence with you to your asylum interview. You can contact your local asylum office for more detailed instructions.

Read more about applying for asylum with USCIS here, or watch these videos.

Can I submit evidence in my own language?

Yes. You can submit evidence in a language other than English, but you will also need to include a translation into English and a certificate of translation.

My asylum application was rejected and returned to me by USCIS. What can I do?

If your asylum application was rejected and returned to you, you should carefully read the rejection notice. The rejection notice explains why USCIS rejected your application. You can correct the problem and resubmit your application. If you need help resubmitting your application, you can look for legal assistance.

Note: This page is for adults who are interested in seeking asylum in the United States. Our hope is that you will use the information to better understand the asylum process and take control of your case. However, this information is not a substitute for legal advice about your particular case. To look for legal assistance, visit ASAP’s find help page

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