There are countless people in the world living in fear of their lives. If it impossible for you to safely stay in your own country, you may have to seek asylum in another one. If you hope the United States will grant you asylum, it is vital to understand how the asylum process works.

First, you need to get to the United States. You cannot apply for asylum from your home country. You need to either be inside the U.S. border or at a port of entry. Making this journey with no guaranteed outcome is a considerable risk. If you are considering it, then staying where you are is probably an even greater risk.

There are two types of asylum you can apply for:

  • Affirmative asylum: You must already be in the U.S. to apply for this. You cannot have been here longer than a year unless there have been exceptional changes to your circumstances which justify an extension.
  • Defensive asylum: This applies if the U.S. immigration authorities have instigated removal proceedings against you.

Once your application is submitted, the immigration authorities should resolve it within 180 days. If they turn you down, you have about a month to appeal their decision.

You can currently submit an asylum request if the persecution you are fleeing is due to your nationality, race, religion, politics or membership of a social group. However, there have been attempts by the current U.S. administration to limit what qualifies as a social group. If passed, they could prevent those persecuted due to their sexual orientation or gender from seeking asylum. An experienced immigration attorney will understand the current rules and can assess your chance of claiming.