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).

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? 

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 were not informed of the one year deadline at the border. If you were stopped at the border, the immigration officials should have explained that you needed to apply for asylum within one year. If they did not explain this to you, you may be able to apply for asylum even if one year or longer has passed since you entered the United States.This is because of a court case called Mendez Rojas. If you are in this situation, you may be able to file your asylum application and notify the government that Mendez Rojas applies in your case. You must do this by April 22, 2022.
  • 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. Here are some examples:
    • The conditions in your country of origin have changed and it would now be dangerous for you to return.
    • Your personal circumstances have changed and returning to your country of origin would now be dangerous for you. For example, 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).
    • 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. 

How do I fill out the asylum application, Form I-589? 

You can visit this USCIS webpage for the most current version of the asylum application and instructions for how to submit it.

The asylum application is long and asks some hard questions. But do not let this discourage you! This video explains in detail how to fill out the asylum application, Form I-589. The video goes through each of the sections and explains how to answer each question. For a written resource with step-by-step instructions, visit Appendix F of this guide.

Your answers must be written in English. If you are writing by hand, make sure that your handwriting is clear and easy to read. Please use a black pen.

Make sure to read each question carefully. All of your answers should be complete, accurate, and truthful. After you are done, make sure to review the entire application to catch any mistakes. Remember to sign and date your application!

In addition to filling out your asylum application, you will also have to submit some additional documents together with your application. Read here for instructions on how to prepare your additional documents. Read here for instructions on where to send your asylum application when it is ready.

Do I need to submit any documents with my asylum application? 

Yes, you have to submit some initial evidence together with your asylum application (Form I-589), as well as the correct number of copies of your application and evidence.

  1. Attach two passport photos to your completed asylum application. 
    • Attach two passport photos to your application on page 9. On the back of the passport photos, write your full name and A-number in pencil. If you do not have an A-number, write “A# None.”
  1. If you are including any family members, take this additional step.
    • Make a copy of your completed asylum application.
    • Attach two passport photos of your family member to the copy of application on page 9. On the back of the passport photos, write your family member’s full name and A-number in pencil.  If your family member does not have an A-number, write “A# None.”
  1. Make a copy of the following documents, and attach them to the application. 
    • Your birth certificate.
    • Marriage certificate.
    • Passport (every page, including the front and back covers).
    • I-94, if you arrived in the United States with a visa, if you entered on a visa waiver program, or if you received parole.
    • If you are including your spouse in your application, also include a copy of:
      • Your spouse’s birth certificate
      • Your spouse’s passport (all pages)
      • Your spouse’s I-94 (if available)
      • Marriage certificate showing that you and your spouse are married.
      • Proof of termination of any prior marriages (for example, a divorce judgment) for you and your spouse.
    • If you are including your child in your application, also include a copy of:
      • Your child’s birth certificate
      • Your child’s passport (all pages)
      • Your child’s I-94 (if available)
    • If you (or a family member included in your application) were arrested in the United States for a criminal violation, you must submit a copy of records relating to that violation. If you don’t have the records, you can explain that you will look for them and provide them in the future.
    • If any of the documents are not in English, you will also need to include a translation and a certificate of translation.
  1. Take the whole package (application and evidence), and make an appropriate number of copies. 
    • If you are applying for asylum with USCIS, you need:
      • One original.
      • One copy.
      • One additional copy for each family member that you are including in your asylum case.
      • One copy for you to keep for your records.
    • If you are applying for asylum in Immigration Court, you need:
      • One original for the judge.
      • One copy for the government attorney.
      • One copy for you to keep for your records.

Please note that you may wish to submit more evidence supporting your asylum case. You can look for an attorney to help you with this. You can submit such evidence together with your application. Or if you need more time to prepare the evidence, you can also submit them closer to your USCIS asylum interview or immigration court hearing.

Read here for instructions on how to fill out the asylum application. Read here for instructions on where to send your asylum application when it is ready.

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.

Where do I file my asylum application?

The answer depends on if you have a case in immigration court or not.

If you do NOT have a case in immigration court, you can apply for asylum with the immigration agency USCIS. Mail your asylum application package to the correct USCIS address. The USCIS address depends on where you live. You can find the correct address by going to this USCIS webpage, and looking under “Where To File.”

If you have a case in immigration court, you need to submit your asylum application to the immigration court and the government attorney. You have three options.

  • Option 1. You can submit your application packages in person during your hearing. You can hand the original and the copies to the judge. The judge should stamp them. The judge should keep the original, and give you back two copies. Give one of the copies to the government attorney, and keep the other copy for your records.
  • Option 2. You can submit your application packages 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, 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 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.

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 see an example on this government website.

What family members can be included in my asylum application?

Your spouse and your unmarried children under 21 who are already in the United States can be included as part of your asylum case. Family members who are included are sometimes called “derivatives.” If you win asylum, they will also receive asylum at the same time.

In order to be included in your case, your unmarried children need to be under 21 years of age at the time you file your asylum application (Form I-589). It is okay if they turn 21 after you have filed your application. However, your children must remain unmarried until your asylum case is decided. If your children are over 21 years old, or if they are married, they have to file separate asylum applications.

If your spouse and children are not in the United States, they cannot be included in your asylum case. However, if you win asylum, you can petition to bring them to the United States by submitting Form I-730. You must petition for them within two years of winning asylum.

Please note that even if you are not including your spouse or your children in your asylum case, you still need to provide their information in Part A.II of the asylum application (Form I-589). After you answer questions about each family member, you can check “yes” or “no” to the question about whether you wish to include them in your application.

What 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Reports from national or international human rights organizations about the situation that you have fled from.

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

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

Can I submit evidence in my own language?

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

If your asylum application was rejected for having blank spaces, you can take special steps to make sure your application is considered correctly! You must take action by July 20, 2022.

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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