Resources for Asylum Seekers in the U.S.

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In the United States, asylum is available as protection for individuals from other countries who seek safety from persecution due to their beliefs, identity, or affiliations. This process allows individuals to avoid deportation and gives them the right to remain in the U.S. Here’s what to know about the process and how to get help: 

What is the process for asylum?

Those looking to apply for asylum must either be present in the U.S. or seeking entry at a U.S. port. There are two paths to seeking asylum — affirmative and defensive asylum. 

Affirmative asylum applicants are either at a port of entry or have been in the U.S. for less than a year, where a USCIS officer grants or denies asylum. Defensive asylum is the process for those in removal proceedings, usually, because they were apprehended by ICE or Customs and Border Protection agents. In this case, an immigration judge grants or denies asylum. 

U.S. immigration law states that asylum-seekers must apply within one year of arriving in the country or prove extraordinary circumstances for a delay. Those who file late must explain why they are late, or risk being denied.

Do I need legal assistance to seek asylum?

It is highly recommended (by the UN Refugee Agency, for example) to obtain legal assistance before applying for asylum. If possible, those seeking asylum should consult a lawyer or an agency authorized to represent immigration applicants. 

Where can I find help with the asylum process?

There are several ways to reach non-profit organizations, government agencies, and law offices for assistance. Here are a few resources: 

National Immigration Legal Services Directory – nonprofit organizations that offer free or low-cost legal services organized by state, county, or detention center

Freedom for Immigrants Hotline – call 209-757-3733 or 9233# for people calling from a detention center. To call on behalf of someone in a detention center, the number is 209-757-3733. This line runs Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. PST. 

Office of Refugee Resettlement National Call Center – unaccompanied minors and parents or sponsors of unaccompanied children can call 800-203-7001 for help.

Asylum Seekers Advocacy Project – a list of private immigration lawyers organized by state 

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) – appointment only

  • To make a legal consultation appointment: call 312-660-1370 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Email:
  • General Information Line: 312-660-1331
  • How to prepare for your appointment: English link / Spanish link
  • LGBTQ asylum seekers: call 773-672-6551 on Wednesdays and Fridays between 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

How do you start the process of applyingn for asylum?

To start the application process, individuals must complete and submit Form I-589 along with additional required documents. Click here for Form I-589. As suggested in the previous section, it is highly recommended that applicants consult with an attorney or an agency authorized to represent immigration applicants, before applying for asylum.

Where can I find updates about my asylum process?

If you have a pending asylum application, you can check your case online with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

Asylum officer locations and contact information can be found here

Thalia Carrillo is a writer based in Austin, TX. She moved from her hometown of El Paso, TX to pursue a journalism degree at The University of Texas at Austin. She enjoys covering politics and pop culture and has a passion for social justice, digital storytelling, plants, and specialty coffee!