Form I-589 Guide: Understanding the Asylum Application Process

Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, is a crucial document for individuals seeking asylum in the United States. Asylum protects individuals from persecution in their home country based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. This form allows non-U.S. citizens physically present in the country to make a formal request for protection under U.S. immigration law.

The process of applying for asylum requires careful attention to detail, as applicants must provide extensive personal information, background, and the specific reasons for their asylum claim. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides the form free of charge, which can be downloaded from their official website. Instructions are included to assist applicants in determining their eligibility and to guide them through the filing process.

Applicants must submit Form I-589 to the appropriate USCIS office without delay to avoid the risk of removal from the United States. The form is also used to apply for withholding of removal, which is a form of relief for individuals who may not qualify for asylum but can demonstrate that returning to their home country would likely result in persecution.

Eligibility Criteria

To apply for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal using Form I-589, individuals must meet stringent eligibility criteria based on their experiences and fears of persecution in their home country.

Persecution or Fear

Applicants must demonstrate that they have either suffered persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution if they were to return to their home country. Persecution refers to harmful or threatening treatment targeted at individuals because of factors such as their beliefs or characteristics.

Asylum Claims Based on Political Opinion

Those who face persecution in their country of origin due to their political opinion or expressions that are not tolerated by their government may qualify for asylum. The applicant must show a credible link between their political views and the persecution they have experienced or fear.

Membership in a Particular Social Group

Individuals may seek asylum if they are persecuted for their membership in a particular social group. This group must share common, immutable characteristics that are innate or fundamental to identities or consciences.

Nationality or Race

Applicants can be eligible for asylum if they are or would be persecuted because of their nationality or race. This encompasses ethnic and linguistic groups that are treated adversely based on their heritage or identity.


Asylum eligibility extends to those who face persecution due to their religious beliefs, affiliations, or practices. Persecution on religious grounds can manifest through harassment, punishment, or denial of basic rights and liberties.

Application Process

The application process for Form I-589 is a critical step for individuals seeking asylum or withholding of removal in the United States. Adherence to the procedure and requirements ensures a properly filed application. Form I-589 processing time is based on various factors from submission to decision.

Form I-589 Overview

Form I-589Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, is used by individuals physically present in the U.S. who are not U.S. citizens to apply for asylum or withholding of deportation. It’s essential to complete the form accurately, providing all requested information.

Supporting Documentation

Applicants must provide supporting documentation along with Form I-589. This includes evidence of identity, nationality, and any documents pertinent to the asylum claim, such as proof of persecution or fear of future persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Filing Deadlines

The filing deadline for Form I-589 is within one year of the applicant’s arrival in the U.S. Exceptions apply for circumstances affecting eligibility, but timely filing is critical for a valid asylum application.

Interviews and Appointments

Upon filing Form I-589, applicants will be scheduled for an interview with an asylum officer or immigration judge. Applicants must attend all appointments associated with their asylum application, as missing an interview or appointment can result in denial of their application.

Biometrics Submission

As part of the application process, applicants are required to submit biometrics information. This typically involves going to a designated Application Support Center (ASC) for fingerprints and a photograph.

Legal Considerations

This section explores the crucial legal facets of Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, emphasizing the applicant’s responsibilities and the severe repercussions of non-compliance.

Burden of Proof

The applicant has the burden of proof when filing Form I-589. They must demonstrate eligibility for asylum or withholding of removal under the law. This typically involves providing credible evidence that the applicant has suffered persecution or has a well-founded fear of future persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion if returned to their home country.

Credible Fear and Reasonable Fear

Two types of fear assessments are critical in the context of Form I-589:

  1. Credible Fear: For those subject to expedited removal, an initial ‘credible fear’ interview determines if the applicant has a significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum.
  2. Reasonable Fear: In the case of individuals who have been previously ordered removed but express fear of returning, a ‘reasonable fear’ determination establishes whether there is a reasonable possibility that they would be subject to persecution or torture.

Frivolous Application Penalties

Filing a frivolous application has severe consequences. An applicant found to have deliberately made a frivolous application for asylum is permanently ineligible for any benefits under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This determination is made if the application is found to contain material elements that are not true and were deliberately fabricated to enhance the asylum claim.

Rights and Responsibilities

When an individual files Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, they should be aware of certain rights that become available and the responsibilities they must adhere to while their application is pending.

Benefits While Pending

While an asylum application is pending, applicants generally do not have access to federal benefits such as Medicaid or Food Stamps. However, certain local organizations and nonprofits may offer assistance. Applicants should stay informed about any available resources in their locality.

Permission to Work

Asylum applicants may apply for employment authorization 150 days after the complete asylum application is filed, provided their case has not been adjudicated yet. If granted, they can work legally in the United States. It’s important to note that:

  • Application for Employment Authorization: It can be filed using Form I-765.
  • Renewal: Employment authorization needs to be renewed in conjunction with the status of their asylum application.

Traveling Abroad

Applicants should refrain from traveling outside the United States until a decision on their asylum application is made. If travel is necessary, they must apply for and receive an advance parole document. Leaving without advance parole may lead to the forfeiture of their asylum application.

  • Advance Parole: Form I-131 is used to apply for an advance parole document.
  • Re-entry: Even with advance parole, re-entry to the United States is not guaranteed and is at the discretion of border officials.

Denial and Appeals

When an individual receives a denial for their Form I-589, which is an application for asylum, withholding of removal, or relief under the Convention Against Torture, they have specific options to contest the decision. The applicant can appeal the decision, file a motion to reopen, or a motion to reconsider.

Notice of Denial

When USCIS denies an I-589 application, the applicant receives a Notice of Denial. This document outlines the reasons for the denial and informs the applicant of their right to appeal the decision. The notice will indicate the deadline for filing an appeal, which is typically 30 days from the receipt of the decision.

Appeal Process

The Appeal Process involves submitting a request to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). An applicant must file Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, and include all required evidence and documentation. It’s imperative to adhere to deadlines; failing to file within the stipulated time frame can result in the loss of the right to appeal.

Motion to Reopen or Reconsider

Applicants may file a Motion to Reopen or Motion to Reconsider. A Motion to Reopen is based on new facts and must be supported by affidavits and other evidentiary material. On the other hand, a Motion to Reconsider is filed to argue that the decision was incorrect based on the evidence originally provided. These motions must generally be filed within 90 days of the decision, and like an appeal, must be accompanied by the correct form and fee.

Special Situations

Certain individuals and circumstances require special attention when filing Form I-589 for asylum and withholding of removal. These include unaccompanied minors, individuals in sensitive locations, and LGBTQ+ asylum claimants, each facing unique challenges and provisions in the process.

Unaccompanied Minors

Unaccompanied minors are afforded additional protections throughout the asylum application process. They are often prioritized for interviews and may receive assistance from specially trained officers. The adjudication of their cases considers their age and ability to provide detailed testimony.

Sensitive Locations

Applicants located in places such as schools, hospitals, and places of worship, designated as “sensitive locations” by immigration enforcement, can expect that enforcement actions at these sites should generally be avoided. This policy allows individuals at these sites to pursue asylum claims without the fear of immediate removal.

LGBTQ+ Asylum Claims

LGBTQ+ individuals may file Form I-589 based on persecution due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or because they are intersex. They must provide evidence related to the social, legal, and cultural conditions in their country of origin that supports their fear of persecution. Claims are evaluated with consideration of the nuances and complexities of LGBTQ+ issues in different contexts.