New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

Asylum: How to Fill Out the I-589 Form

Author: New York Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova

To file for asylum in the US, a person has to fill out and submit to USCIS form I-589, that can be found on The form is free. Every person who is filing the case on his/her own, has to read instructions to the form carefully. The form has to be filled out using black ink, and every field of the asylum form has to be completed. If the information that is being asked in the field is not relevant or does not exist, the filer has to put "NONE" or "N/A".

It is important to note that the form for asylum is also used to claim withholding of removal and relief under Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). However, to request the CAT protection, the filer has to specifically mark the box at the top of the first page of the application. While the evidentiary standard and burden of proof differ for asylum, withholding and CAT, the application form is the same, and the same answers will be used to qualify the person for these reliefs.

The most common confusion comes from the fact that the form calls for definite answers when people how are applying for asylum, often come from the countries where they have more than one answer to the same question. For example: often, in countries of the former Soviet Union and South America, a person might have two birthdates: one is the real date of birth, and another one: the date of the actual registration. Also, a place of birth can differ: the birth certificate may state that the place of birth is the regional center, when the person was actually born in a small, remote village. The same true as to the marriage question: in some places, persons consider themselves to be married when they just had a religious ceremony when the government of that country does not recognize religious marriage as valid. In such cases, the best approach would be to list on asylum form the same information that is contained in the supporting documents: birth certificates; passports, etc. and in the attachment explain the additional information. It is crucial that the applicant provides all and true information to the government, so that later any allegation of fraud or misrepresentation can be rebutted.

One of the most challenging parts of the application is to correctly state the basis for asylum: it is so because it is a legal conclusion, rather than a factual one. For example, a person who is objecting to bribes extortion and, as a result, his family is being persecuted has to check off which box as a basis for the persecution: membership in a particular social group or political opinion? Or, maybe, such a person does not qualify for asylum at all? That is why a pro-se applicant has to try to do his/her best and check off all that he/she thinks is applicable. In the example above, the person should check off both fields: political opinion and membership in a particular social group. Please see decisions: CONSTANZA V. HOLDER, 7/9/14; RUQIANG YU v. HOLDER, 09/07/12.

Finally, while it is tempting to boost one’s asylum claim with false information, it is important to remember that inconsistences and misrepresentations will be counted against the applicant, and it is simply not worth it to “kill” one’s chance to stay in the country for the hope that an adjudicator would be impressed with the beating incident or false medical record. If you need assistance with the asylum application, please call our office at 917-885-2261.

05 August 2014
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