Asylum is a humanitarian immigration benefit intended to protect people from persecution if returned to their country of nationality. For more information on asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief, please click here.
Asylum is a complicated area of immigration law and statistics show that you are much more likely to prevail on your claim if your case is prepared by an attorney than if you attempt to present your case without legal representation. This post describes a very specific requirement of asylum law that everyone should know about before even hiring an attorney: the one year filing deadline. If you do not meet this deadline there are significant consequences, described below.
An application for asylum must be received within one year of entry by either the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (if you are not in removal proceedings) or the Immigration Judge at a master calendar hearing (if you are in removal proceedings). For example, if you entered the U.S. on December 1, 2016, the USCIS must receive your asylum application by November 30, 2017; otherwise, you lose your eligibility to be granted asylum. If you sought asylum at the border and were given a credible fear interview, you still need to apply for asylum before an Immigration Judge within one year— the credible fear interview alone is not enough to comply with the requirement.
One year sounds like a long time, but in reality this time passes by very quickly. You may be afraid to seek the information that you need to determine whether you qualify for asylum. You may have so many other immediate concerns regarding your health, housing, and other important issues that filing an application for asylum is delayed. While these immediate concerns are obviously extremely important, your long-term stability in this country and escaping persecution depends on you having a legal immigration status. If an application for asylum is not timely filed, you lose this possibility. For that reason, and others beyond the scope of this post, it is very important to see an immigration attorney as soon as possible if you are seeking asylum.
What if I did not apply for asylum within one year of entering the U.S.?
Arguments can be made for why an asylum application was not filed within the one year time period. A common scenario is when a condition arises that did not previously exist which now makes it likely that you will face persecution if you return to your home country. For example, if there was a change in your country’s conditions, you may qualify for an exception. Another example would be if you received a diagnosis for a health condition for which you now face persecution if you returned to your country. In these situations, an asylum application should be filed as soon as is reasonably possible after your situation changes. You can also qualify for an exception if you had valid status for over a year, such as F-1 student status, and you apply for asylum within a reasonable time after your status expires. Despite these exceptions, you do not want to be in a position where you have to ask for an exception to the one-year filing deadline if it is at all possible to file an application in time. If you have already been in the U.S. for more than one year and you have a fear of returning to your country, speak with a qualified immigration attorney to see if you may be able to overcome the one-year filing deadline requirement.
If you are in removal proceedings, you are still held to the burden of having your application filed within one year. This requirement stands even if your first hearing is not scheduled within the first year of your date of entry to the U.S. The Immigration Court is currently extremely backlogged and there is a very good chance you won’t have a hearing within one year. In these cases, your attorney can and should take a number of steps to attempt to have your application filed within one year. Simply telling the Immigration Judge that your application was not filed in time because your hearing was scheduled so far out will likely result in a finding that you did not comply with the one-year filing deadline requirement.
If you have a fear of returning to your country, consult with a qualified attorney as soon as possible regarding your situation to see if you may be eligible for asylum. You may have an approvable claim, but if you miss the one-year filing deadline, it will be much more difficult to prove your eligibility. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please click here.
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