The process of seeking asylum in the United States is difficult time-consuming, and complicated, especially because more than one federal agency usually involved. The United Nations defines a refugee as somebody who is unable or unwilling to return to their home country because he or she cannot obtain protection there because of persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution as a result of “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” The United States follows that definition. A person who is seeking asylum purports to be a refugee, but he or she has yet to be given such status. 

From Where Can Asylum Be Applied For?

Under United States law, a person can apply for asylum at a U.S. border port of entry or from anywhere else within the United States. Asylum must be applied for within one year of obtaining of entry into the country. A person seeking asylum in the United States is allowed to remain in the country during the time that a decision is being made on their petition.

Applying for Asylum

You’ll be using the Form I-589 to apply for asylum. It’s a long form that asks for detailed information about you and your family and why you are in fear of returning to your home country. As the form is in English, whatever you say on that form can and will likely be used against you. That’s why your Form I-589 must be carefully and professionally prepared by a Central Valley immigration lawyer here at Maison Law Immigration Lawyers.

Affirmative and Defensive Asylum

A person can apply for asylum in the United States in one of two ways. Those are through the affirmative process and the defensive process. Asylum cannot be sought if the petitioner is in another country. There is no right to an attorney appointed by the court for the asylum seeker. He or she must retain their own attorney. Short overviews of the affirmative and defensive processes follow:
  • Affirmative Asylum: A person may apply for asylum through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service if he or she is not in removal proceedings. Should the person not have a valid immigration status, denial of an asylum petition will operate to have the individual referred for removal proceedings. 
  • Defensive Asylum: A person who is in removal proceedings can still apply for asylum, but that petition must be brought before an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the U.S. Department of Justice. The general rule is that asylum seekers who are at a U.S. port of entry or who entered the U.S. without inspection are required to seek defensive asylum.

The Asylum Office Interview

Your interview is your opportunity to explain to the U.S. government why you’re seeking asylum and why you should be granted it. Having an asylum lawyer at your interview is extremely important. Not only can your lawyer prepare you for many of the questions that will be asked of you at your interview, but he can also help you gather additional evidence that can assist the government in making a positive decision on your behalf. If you feel that you need a translator, you’ll have to bring your own adult interpreter. The accuracy of his or her translation services will be independently monitored during the interview. Upon the conclusion of your interview, your petition will either be granted, or it will be referred. If you’re referred, you’ve been denied, but you’ll have an opportunity to bring your case again in immigration court. Most immigration petitions are referred there. Take notice that referred cases are removal proceedings. If you don’t prevail in your referred case, you’ll be deported. You’ll want a knowledgeable and aggressive immigration lawyer who will protect and invoke all of your rights at any removal proceedings.

Protection Similar to Asylum

Aside from asylum, there is protection available to foreign nationals who might not otherwise be permitted to avail themselves to the benefits and protections offered by United States courts and administrative agencies. Here are a few of them:
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): The wife or husband of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent U.S. resident who might not be eligible for immigration benefits can petition for permanent residency for himself or herself and their children under the age of 21. Grounds under VAWA would be that the spouse has been abused. Such a petition might also be brought by an allegedly abused child or by a parent on his or her behalf. A parent who has been abused by a child who is more than 21 years of age who is a U.S. citizen may also bring a VAWA petition.
  • U Visa: Although this is a non-immigrant visa, it might still lead to lawful permanent residency in the United States. The intent behind the creation of this visa is to encourage victims of domestic violence, trafficking of people who aren’t U.S. citizens or other crimes to cooperate with authorities in the United States without fear of being deported. A U Visa is only granted for four years, and if adjustment to a lawful permanent residence is sought, the victim must be in the United States for three continuous years. On that basis, the window for renewing or adjusting a U visa is short. Qualifying family members will also be considered for U Visas.
  • T Visa: These are also non-immigrant visas that allow holders to remain in the United States for up to four years as victims of severe human trafficking. Under federal law, sex trafficking and labor trafficking are both considered to be severe forms of human trafficking. Qualifying family members will also be considered for these visas. Those who are issued a T Visa might qualify to adjust their visa to that of a lawful permanent resident. The same residency requirement and time frame for petitioning to renew or adjust this visa status to that of a lawful permanent resident as a U Visa is available.
Whether you’re considering asylum, VAWA, a U Visa or a T Visa, it’s unlikely that your petition will be granted without the representation of a qualified and dedicated Central Valley immigration lawyer for Maison Law Immigration Lawyers. We work hard to see that our clients receive the best possible immigration legal representation, regardless of what their immigration issue might be. As short windows of opportunity have been set by the United States government, don’t wait. Contact us as your earliest possible convenience for a consultation on seeking asylum, VAWA, U Visa or T Visa. Our objective is to obtain the full relief that you seek. 

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