What is asylum?

Asylum is complex. If you need help, contact The Advocates for Human Rights at 612-341-9845, or complete our client intake form. The Advocates assists people at all stages of the asylum process, including helping people apply for asylum and those needing help with an appeal.

In the meantime, here are some basic questions to help guide you:

What is asylum?

Asylum is the legal protection granted to people who have come to the United States and are afraid to return to their home country. Asylum can be granted to people who are unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

  • An asylum application is made once someone is in the United States;
  • The law says the application should be made within one year of entering the country, although there are some exceptions to this deadline;
  • An individual can apply for asylum by filling out an application and submitting it to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services;
  • If a person is in removal proceedings and has a hearing in front of an immigration judge, he or she can make an asylum application in court;
  • A decision denying asylum can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals and the appropriate U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal.
  • The Advocates provides assistance to people at all stages of the asylum process, from those who have not applied to individuals needing help with an appeal.

What is the benefit of asylum?
People who are granted asylum are allowed to:

  • Live and work in the United States;
  • File for their spouse and minor children to come to the United States;
  • Apply for permanent residence and eventually citizenship; and
  • Travel outside of the United States.

What is the process for gaining asylum?
The asylum process begins with an asylum application that is submitted once someone is in the United States. According to U.S. law, the application should be made within one year of entering the United States, although there are some exceptions to this deadline.

A person applies for asylum by filling out an application and submitting it to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

If a person is in removal proceedings and has a hearing in front of an immigration judge, that person can also make an asylum application at that hearing. If the judge decides to deny asylum, the judge's decision can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals and the appropriate Circuit Court of Appeals.

What can I expect when I contact The Advocates for Human Rights?

The Advocates for Human Rights provides free legal representation to low-income asylum seekers who live in Minnesota, North Dakota, or South Dakota. The steps to become a client of The Advocates are:

  • Step 1: Contact The Advocates by phone or online
    Call our intake phone line at 612-341-9845, or fill out the online intake form to start the process.

    When you call, you will be asked preliminary questions about where you live, your income and the income of family members, your immigration history, and your asylum case.
  • Step 2: An intake appointment may be scheduled
    We will review the information you give us. If you meet our guidelines, we will call you back to schedule an intake appointment.

    The intake appointment usually lasts 1 ½ - 2 hours. The appointment takes place at our office. (If you live outside of the Twin Cities metro area, the intake can be done over the phone.) Our staff will ask you questions about your asylum case and review any documents you have that are related to your case. In order to protect your privacy, we prefer to meet with only you (and an interpreter, if needed).
  • Step 3: The Advocates will notify you if we can take your case.
    After your intake appointment, The Advocates’ legal staff will review your case. If we can help you, we will send you a letter notifying you that we will find a volunteer attorney to represent you. This process can take a few weeks, so please be patient. If we cannot help you, we will provided you with a list of attorneys and agencies that might be able to assist you. This list is also available here.

Where Can I Learn More?
You may call The Advocates' client intake line, 612-341-9845. You can access our client intake form online.

To learn more about asylum in the United States, please visit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.