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How Do Immigrants Seek Asylum?

The Carolina Law Group > Blog  > How Do Immigrants Seek Asylum?

How Do Immigrants Seek Asylum?

Each year, the U.S. approves thousands of applications for asylum, giving people from all over the world a chance to start a new life free from fear of persecution and torture. (Read more about asylum on our blog here.)

Individuals seeking asylum in the U.S. due to persecution or credible fear of persecution in their home country have three ways three ways to obtain asylum protection in the U.S.:

  •       Affirmative Process
  •       Asylum Merits Interview
  •       Defensive Process

For all three processes, the asylum seeker must be physically present in the U.S. at the time of applying and must not already be a U.S. citizen. Each pathway has its own additional eligibility requirements.

Let’s look at each one in turn.

Affirmative Process

Eligibility: The asylum seeker must never have been issued an A-Number (or, if there is an A-Number, must not currently be in EOIR proceedings) or is an “unaccompanied alien child.”

Process: Fill out Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, within one year of arriving in the U.S. (or explain why doing so within one year was not possible).

Asylum Merits Interview

Eligibility: This process is for individuals who were placed in expedited removal proceedings (i.e., they will be deported soon) after May 31, 2022 and who declare their intention to apply for asylum for fear of returning to their country.

Process: First, a USCIS officer will conduct a credible fear screening. If the officer believes a credible fear exists, either a second interview – called the Asylum Merits Interview – will be held, or the asylum seeker will go before an immigration judge.

Defensive Process

Eligibility: The defensive asylum process is for individuals who are currently in removal proceedings with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and are seeking asylum as a defense against removal from the U.S.

Process: An individual who is in removal proceedings may fill out Form I-589 if they have not done so already and appear before an immigration judge.

Have Questions about Applying for Asylum in the U.S.? Call the Immigration Attorneys at The Carolina Law Group

The above is a very brief overview of a very complex topic. You likely have many questions, like are you eligible for asylum in the U.S.? Which of the three pathways is available to you? What can you do to build a strong case to show you cannot return to your home country?

If you have any of these questions, speak with the immigration attorneys at The Carolina Law Group. They can help. They have experience handling asylum cases and can help you understand your options, handle paperwork, build a strong case, and avoid mistakes. You have nothing to lose – we offer a free, no-obligation consultation, so call us today at one of the numbers below to schedule your free consultation now.

The Carolina Law Group has four offices in South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), Spartanburg (principal office; call 864.312.4444) & West Columbia (principal office; call 803.881.1110).

Call us at one of our four offices or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with one of our attorneys. Our business hours are Monday – Thursday 8:30am – 5:30pm & Friday 8:30 am – 5 pm. Weekend and evening hours by appointment only. Our Greenville, SC law firm offers Spanish, Hindi, and Gujarati language translation services for your convenience.


Monty D. Desai came to the United States on Christmas Eve, 1988. After high school he joined the service in order to earn money for college. Monty would go on to earn a letter of commendation as a Navy Corpsman for the Marine Corps. After his service, Monty completed his undergraduate studies at the University of South Carolina. From there, Monty went on to attend Thomas M. Cooley Law School on full scholarship, where he earned his Juris Doctorate. Following graduation from law school, Monty served as prosecutor with Greenville County Solicitor’s Office, and also worked as a a adjunct professor in the Criminal Justice Division at Greenville Technical College. In 2015 Monty was recognized by the National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys as ranked among the Top 10 Under 40 for excellence in the field of personal injury.

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