Some asylum seekers can now apply for asylum online

Last updated on January 23, 2023

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently made it possible for more people to file the asylum application online! This will help some asylum seekers get a receipt notice (the proof that you applied for asylum) within days rather than months.

However, not everyone who applies for asylum can use this online filing option. If you have a case in immigration court, you generally must still use the paper form. Other categories of asylum seekers also cannot yet apply online. Please keep reading for more details.

ASAP will continue to advocate to make applying for asylum more accessible, faster, and simpler for all! We will update you if the government opens online filing to more people.

Can I file my asylum application (Form I-589) online?

Maybe. The answer depends on whether you are applying for asylum with USCIS or in immigration court, as well as some other factors. If you are not sure if you have a case in immigration court, read more at this link.

1. If you are applying for asylum with USCIS, you may be able to complete and submit your asylum application online! However, there are exceptions:

  • You cannot apply online if you had an immigration court case in the past and the judge dismissed (or closed) your case. If you decide to apply for asylum again with USCIS, you need to mail your asylum application to a special address. Learn more here.
  • You cannot apply online if you are in one of the other situations described under the “Special Instructions” tab on this USCIS webpage.

2. If you have a case in immigration court, you generally CANNOT file your asylum application online. You need to submit a paper asylum application to the immigration court instead. However, there are exceptions:

  • If you have an attorney, your attorney may be able to file online for you.
  • If immigration officials told you that you will have a case in immigration court but you do not yet appear in the immigration court system, you can file online with USCIS.

What are the steps to file for asylum online, if I am eligible?

  1. Go to this USCIS webpage.
  2. Click the blue button that says “File Online”. This will take you to a new webpage for your USCIS online account. You should log in or create a new USCIS account.
  3. Use the online system to complete your application. See more guidance below! Read all the instructions carefully and review your information before you submit.
  4. 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.

What special information should I know to complete the asylum application online?

Most of the questions in the online asylum application are identical to the paper application. You can watch this video for detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to fill out the paper asylum application.

However, there are a few differences on the online asylum application:

  • Photos: On the online asylum application, you do not need to submit photos of your face like you do for a paper 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 did not use a visa to enter the United States, you can most likely choose “AO – Asylum Applicant without Work Auth.”
    • If you entered the United States on 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 not sure what to choose, you can choose “ZN – unknown”.
  • 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”.
  • 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. You can also submit more evidence after you submit your asylum application. And when you go to your asylum interview in person in the future, you should bring original copies of any evidence.

What should I do if I already submitted an asylum application to USCIS by mail and I have been waiting a long time for a receipt?

USCIS is currently taking a long time to send receipt notices for asylum applications submitted by mail. You can read about possible next steps here.

Generally, you can apply for a work permit 150 days after your asylum application was received. If you have already waited 150 days and you still have not received your receipt notice, you can try submitting your work permit application without including a receipt notice. You can find more instructions here.

If I already mailed USCIS an asylum application, can I file another application online?

Maybe. If you already mailed USCIS a paper asylum application and you are still waiting for a receipt notice, you can try to file again online. If you do this, you should quickly receive an online receipt notice with the date that you filed your online application (not your paper application). You could use that online notice as proof of filing your asylum application on the new, more recent online filing date.

However, we do not have very many details about how this process will work and USCIS currently does not recommend re-filing online.

If you decide to re-file online, you should make sure that the answers in your online application are the same as the answers in your paper application.

Note: This information is not a substitute for advice from an attorney.