Asylum Lawyers for Asylum Seekers

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Can I get asylum?

Asylum is for people who are in the United States who are afraid to stay in their country of origin because they have already suffered persecution or because they have what our government calls a “well-founded fear” that they will suffer persecution in the future if they are forced to return.  But that is not all.  The harm that was already suffered or that is feared has to be because of the person’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group.  In the immigration laws the “because of” component is called the “nexus requirement“.

Can you give me an example of a few cases you’ve worked on?

The team of New York asylum lawyers at Lightman Law Firm has over 15 years of experience working on all types of asylum cases.

A few examples:

  •  An individual who feared returning to his country of origin (in the Western part of Africa) because he had suffered past persecution on account of his political involvement and advocacy.  This would be “past persecution” due to political opinion.
  • A gay man who was severely beaten in a former USSR (Soviet) state for being LGBT, and who fled to the USA.  This would be past persecution because of membership in a social group.
  • A woman from a Central Asian state (also former USSR) who was threatened and severely mistreated because she converted from one religion to another.  This would be a past persecution claim based on religion.
  • A transgendered individual from the Caribbean, who was brutally harmed before coming to the United States.  This would be a past persecution case based on LGBT identity, which is a social group.

These are just a few examples.  Our team of New York asylum lawyers has done cases from Russia, Ukraine, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Trinidad & Tobago, several West African states, and Central America, to name just a few.

Our asylum lawyer team speaks French, Spanish, and Russian.  

    — Nous parlons votre langue.
    — Hablamos su idioma.
    — Мы говорим ваш язык.

What is the asylum application process like?

If you have never been placed into removal proceedings or have never been detained by immigration, then you will be applying for asylum “affirmatively” before USCIS.  This means that your application is not being filed in response or in defense of proceedings that have already been initiated against you, but rather that you and your lawyer are “making the first move,” so to speak.    If you are already in proceedings or have been detained, your application is a “defensive” one.

The application for asylum is form I-589.  It is a lengthy form that asks a lot of detail about you, your family, and why you are afraid to return to your country of origin.   The form is in English.  It is so important that you work with a competent and experienced immigration asylum lawyer to help you with the I-589 asylum application because everything you put on that application can be used against you later.  Don’t risk it by trying to “do it yourself.”

The asylum lawyer team at Lightman Law Firm has done both affirmative and defensive applications for asylum.  Call us.

When will I get my Asylum Office interview?

After you’ve filed for asylum, you will receive something from USCIS confirming that they have received your application.  Make sure to keep that receipt in a safe place!  Then shortly after that, you may receive an appointment to go in for fingerprints.  Follow all of the instructions on that appointment notice carefully.  Currently, the Asylum Office is using a “last in, first out” policy with asylum applications filed after January 2018. [You can see our blog posting on that issue here].  So we have seen that interviews at the Asylum Office are coming very quickly, within 5 – 6 weeks.

What is the interview like? 

The interview is your chance to explain to the U.S. government why you should be granted asylum.  Having a competent asylum lawyer on your side is essential – an asylum lawyer who has done a good number of cases can prepare you for the kinds of questions you will be asked by the officer.   He or she can also help you collect supplementary evidence of country conditions that can be given to the officer to help him or her make a positive decision on your case.

Having your asylum lawyer at the interview with you can also be a big help.  Although the officer “runs” the interview, your asylum lawyer can make what is called a “closing statement,” where he or she can summarize the main testimony, and also reference the background evidence, and point helpful things out to the officer to make a final “push” for your case.

Does the Asylum Office provide interpreters?

No, they do not.  You are responsible for providing your own adult interpreter.  And there is no requirement that the interpreter is “court certified.”  So make sure to find someone who speaks both English and your language totally fluently.  There are phone monitors who are made part of the interview process to make sure that the interpretation is accurate.

What happens after the interview?

Most likely, at the end of the interview, you will be given an appointment letter to come back to the Asylum Office to pick up the officer’s decision.  The officer can either grant you asylum or “refer” (send) your case to the Immigration Court.  If your case is granted, you are an asylee in the United States and have many rights and obligations that your lawyer can describe to you.

If you are referred, this means the Asylum Office has not granted your application, but it also means you have a second opportunity to defend your case before the Immigration Court. A vast majority of asylum cases are sent to the Immigration Court.

What is it like to do asylum before a Judge?

It is absolutely essential to be represented by an experienced asylum lawyer before the Immigration Court! It’s important to note that at this juncture, you are in removal proceedings, which means that if you are denied asylum by the Judge, you are ordered removed from the United States.  There is a judge presiding, and there is a government attorney.

Your asylum lawyer is there to advocate for you – and argue that you deserve asylum.  The government attorney is like a prosecutor.  You should not try to do this yourself under any circumstance. The asylum lawyer team at Lightman Law Firm has done many hearings at various Immigration Courts.

What happens after you win asylum?

Right after you win, you can apply for certain family members to join you!  This process is done on Form I-730.  There are several important limitations to this process, such as which family members you can sponsor, and how soon you have to file the I-730.  In general, you are required to file the I-730 within two years of the date of your grant of asylum (but in most cases, people file must sooner than that!)  You should definitely work with an asylum lawyer to make sure that your I-730 petitions are filed correctly.

I’ve heard there’s a filing deadline, can you tell me about that?

The law requires that you file for asylum within one year of the date of your last entry.  The burden is on you to prove that your application was filed in a timely fashion.   There are exceptions to the one-year filing rule, but they are for extraordinary circumstances.  Examples include changed country conditions, extreme health issues, and the ineffective assistance of a prior lawyer.

Have you done cases with exceptions to the one-year filing deadline?

Yes, the asylum lawyer team at Lightman Law Firm has done many different types of cases involving clients who were able to get the client granted asylum despite the one-year issue. If you have already missed the one-year filing deadline, give us a call so we can discuss the particulars of your case, because every case is unique.

What about a work permit while I’m waiting?

Great question!   If you are filing an affirmative application for asylum (meaning you are making the “first move,” not filing your asylum application after being detained or already put in proceedings), then once your application is received by USCIS, a “clock” starts ticking.  Once the clock has reached 150 days, you can apply for a work permit.  But 180 days have to go by until USCIS can actually grant the work permit.

A very important point, however:  if you cause any delays in your application process (as an example, you don’t bring an interpreter to the asylum office interview, and the interview has to be rescheduled), then your clock will stop, and you may never get a work permit.  So make sure to work with a competent asylum lawyer so that does not happen to you!

If I win asylum, when can I file for a green card?

Yes!  One year after you are granted asylum (whether by the Asylum Office or by an Immigration Judge), you are eligible for a green card (permanent residency).  You should work with an asylum lawyer on your green card application, because the green card application is very detailed and intense, and any errors can cause not only delays but could also cause your case to be denied.  If you are granted a green card, you will also eventually be able to apply to become a United States citizen!

Schedule a consultation with us so we can learn more about your case.

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