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Asylum Seekers

Credit: Asylum Overview, Human Rights First

The Advocates assists people at various stages of the asylum process, including helping people apply for asylum initially, in immigration court, in detention, or on appeal.

NOTE: There are severe penalties for filing frivolous asylum applications. Immigration proceedings and applications are extremely complex. We do not recommend you file an asylum application by yourself without first consulting a reputable immigration attorney, such as The Advocates. If you are outside of our service area, you can find other support at

Frequently Asked Questions

Click the question to learn more.

Asylum is a legal protection given to people who have come to the United States and are afraid 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.

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;
  • Travel outside of the United States (but should not travel to their home country or place in which they fear persecution or torture); and
  • Access federally-funded public benefits.

The asylum process begins with an asylum application that is filed once someone is in the United States. (One cannot apply for asylum outside of the U.S. but may be able to apply for refugee status with the UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency.) According to U.S. law, the application must 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 Asylum Office. After completing an interview, the asylum officer will either grant asylum or refer the case to immigration court (or, if the person is still in status, deny the application).

If a person is in immigration removal proceedings, that person should file an asylum application with the immigration court. 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.

The majority of The Advocates for Human Rights' asylum cases fall into two main categories: Affirmative Cases and Removal Cases. We also handle cases for clients with appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Affirmative Cases

Affirmative cases involve:

  • Clients who have not yet applied for asylum or had any contact with immigration services;
  • Require that the asylum application be submitted to immigration services within one year of entry, although certain exceptions may be available.

Removal Cases

Removal cases involve:

  • Clients who apply affirmatively and are not granted asylum;
  • Alternatively, the cases may involve clients who were detained by immigration services and are filing their first asylum applications in court.

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Not in MN, ND or SD? is a searchable online directory of over 1,000 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration legal services providers in all 50 states.
Outside the U.S.?

The UN Refugee Agency provides information and legal advice to stateless people through its partners in many countries around the world.