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Asylum Seekers: What Undocumented Immigrants Need to Know

Immigration Law Book And Gavel
The United States is a destination for many asylum seekers, and more than 2 million have made it their home since 1980. The average amount of asylum applicants accepted in the U.S. was about 40,000 per year for many years, but unrest around the world has led to a recent increase. In 2016, more than 84,000 people received asylum in the U.S.
While many people are granted asylum, a lot of people arrive in the United States without any awareness of how to begin. Long waits, paperwork errors, and language barriers further complicate this process. Everyone should be able to obtain the paperwork they need to legally stay in the country. Here is what you should know.

Understand the Cost

No fee is required to file for asylum, but many people hire legal counsel when filing, and it is worth the expense. Studies have shown that those without representation have higher rates of denial. In fact, self-representing asylum seekers had a 90 percent denial rate in 2016, compared to a rate of 48 percent for those with legal counsel.
How to pay for legal help can be a problem for many asylum seekers, but law offices often accept payment plans. Many non-profit groups around the U.S. also cover or assist with the legal costs for asylum seekers.

Know the Time Limits

Applications for asylum must be submitted within a year of entry to the United States. Exceptions include changes in a native country that make it unsafe to return, a serious physical or mental illness, or the death of an immediate family member.
Minors under the age of 18 can also exceed the one-year limit. They may decide to file separately from a parent or legal guardian or to file alone if a parent passes away before a final asylum decision. Ineffective prior legal counsel is also a valid exception for minors and adults.

Have a Reason

You must have a fact-based reason for asylum. The United States allows people to claim asylum due to any persecution that could lead to imprisonment, injury, or death. The legal system recognizes persecution based on race, religion, and nationality as well as political opinion or membership within a specific social group.

Prepare for Filing

Personal identification, as well as documents that relate to the reason for the asylum request, need to accompany the application. Include passport-sized, recent photographs, a copy of a current passport, and any birth records or driver's licenses in your filing documents. Also, include medical records of injuries from persecution or verifiable reports of dangerous conditions in the native country.

Expect Background Checks

The background of every applicant plays a significant role in the decision. All applicants undergo a screening as a part of the process. Denials are issued for anyone convicted of a serious crime in the United States or a serious, non-political crime in another country. Serious crimes include violent acts like rape or murder as well as some drug-related offenses.
Individuals that took part in the persecution of others or were involved in terrorist activities cannot receive asylum. The children and spouse of someone denied asylum for any reason must wait five years before they apply. Permanent status in another country is also not allowed.

Plan to Wait

The entire process from application to decision can take 200 days or more. Applicants can work 150 days after they apply if they do not have a final decision. If the person needs to travel outside of the United States during the application process, they must request an advance parole document, or they will not be able to return.

Help Your Family

Successful asylum seekers can apply to allow their relatives in as asylee derivatives. A spouse qualifies if they were legally married before the original asylum application. Children must be unmarried and under the age of 21 at the time the parent applied.
At the Law Office of Adebimpe Jafojo, P.C., we know that the decision to leave your country and extended family behind is not an easy one. The process to find safety and a brighter future is difficult, but we can help. Contact us to discuss the circumstances around your situation.