New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

Asylum: How To Fill Out The I-589 Form

Author: New York Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova

I-589 Form

To file for asylum in the US, a person seeking asylum has to fill out and submit to USCIS form I-589 that can be found on The form is free. Make sure to download the latest edition of the form. Every person who is filing the case on his/her own has to read instructions to the form carefully.

Where and how a person seeking asylum in the US has to submit an application for asylum?

Affirmative Asylum Process

The exact filing process of the application for asylum will depend on if a person (asylum seeker) is in removal proceedings or not. If not, the form and attachments will be sent to the USCIS office at the address that would be found in the instructions and links on the USCIS website, page for form I 589. For example, if a person resides in New York, the I 589 Application for Asylum will be mailed to the Vermont Service Center. If a person resides in a different state, the service center may be different as well. Currently, a person has to submit one original and one copy of the application and all attachments for the main applicant, and an additional copy for each dependent who is applying with the main applicant. For example, a husband is the main applicant. He is in the US with his wife and 1 child. Another child is left in their home country. If the husband would like the wife and 1 child who is in the US to be included in the application, he will submit 1 original and 3 copies of all the filings.

Once the USCIS receives the application and accepts it, it will issue a receipt. At this time, only the main applicant will receive the receipt. The dependents included in the application will be simply called for the fingerprints.

Sooner or later, USCIS will schedule an interview for the main applicant. But all included in the application applying with the applicant will have to appear for it and provide their fingerprints once again on the day of the interview. Failure for dependents to appear will result in stopping of their EAD asylum clock. The dependents, however, are not interviewed on the substance of the main applicant’s asylum claim. But they can be interviewed regarding the relationship they have with the dependent and their biographical information.

Defensive Asylum Process

If, however, a person is placed in removal proceedings (deportation), the person will have to submit his/her form with the Immigration court where his/her case is pending. Currently, it may be done by mail or in person at the hearing. Here, however, a copy of the filing for the prosecutor/government is necessary. Plus the way the documents are assembled and presented must be in compliance with the Immigration Court Practice Manual. In addition to filing the application with the Immigration court itself, a respondent (a person in removal proceedings) also has to comply with “defensive” filing process: which currently consists of submitting to USCIS first 3 pages of the I 589 asylum application with a copy of the defensive instructions and g 28 form to the correct address. A defensive filing receipt will be issued after the process is complete.

Filling Out Form I 589

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". In reality, almost all applications nowadays will be typed and filled out on the computer. At times, the fields in the form will containing a coding error and will not allow you to spell words separately or with a hyphen, etc. Make sure to write them by hand correctly if this is the case.

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 the decisions: CONSTANZA V. HOLDER, 7/9/14; RUQIANG YU v. HOLDER, 09/07/12. When in doubt, preserve your rights and check off all boxes that you believe may apply.

You may be aware of the current issue with the “social group” basis for asylum in the United States: this is a developing area of law and various courts in the US took different positions on the issue, in addition to Att. General and Board of Immigration Appeals. At times, you will have to fight in court to prove your point and eligibility!

Question about “current” employment is the one many applicants stumble upon: remember, you must provide honest answers, even if you work in the US without authorization, you have to list that experience.

Do not forget to sign your application and check off all the boxes on page 9! If you need more space to answer a question, you can simply attach a piece of paper with an explanation. Most applicants will have declarations to accompany the form. It is the right thing to do. You can also reference the declaration in the relevant fields of the form.

What to do if you made a mistake on your asylum form that was already submitted?

Mistakes do happen, they are part of our life. You have a right to correct your application before the interview and at the time of the interview in the affirmative process, and before the trial in the Defensive process. However, you do need to be prepared to explain the mistakes and corrections. If they go into the heart of your claim, your credibility may be challenged, as such, prepare your application well the first time around. This being said, nobody can expect a “perfect” application from anyone. It is understood that a person may forget certain details, get confused or get bit evasive with regard to the testimony triggering trauma.

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 New York Immigration lawyers based in Brooklyn, NYC, for a confidential meeting at 917-885-2261.

05 August 2014
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