Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal

Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal

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What is Form I-589?

Form I-589 is an Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal. 

This form is used by individuals physically present in the U.S. to apply for asylum or withholding of removal. 

Asylum is a form of protection granted to foreign nationals who have fled their own country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Who can file Form I-589?

Form I-589, the Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, can be filed by individuals who are physically present in the U.S. and seeking protection because they fear persecution in their home country. 

To be eligible to file Form I-589, an individual must meet the following requirements:

  • Physical Presence: The applicant must be physically present in the U.S. Asylum applications cannot be filed from outside the U.S.
  • Timing: Asylum seekers must file the Form I-589 within one year of their arrival in the U.S. However, there are rare exceptions to this rule, such as changed circumstances or extraordinary circumstances that prevented timely filing (for example, death of a family member, birth of a child, hospitalization, etc.)
  • Persecution or Fear of Persecution: The applicant must have suffered persecution in the past or have a well-founded fear of future persecution based on one or more of the following grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
  • Exclusion Bars: Certain criminal or security-related bars may make individuals ineligible for asylum. 
  • Withholding of Removal: In addition to seeking asylum, applicants can request withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This is a higher standard of proof and does not provide the same benefits as asylum but prevents the applicant from being removed to a country where they would face persecution.

What is Withholding of Removal?

Withholding of Removal is a form of protection available under U.S. immigration law for individuals who can demonstrate a likelihood of facing persecution or harm if returned to their home country. 

It is different from asylum but provides protection from deportation or removal.

Key points about Withholding of Removal include:

  • Eligibility Criteria: To be eligible for withholding of removal, an individual must demonstrate a clear probability of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
  • Higher Standard of Proof: The standard of proof for withholding of removal is higher than that for asylum. While asylum requires a well-founded fear of persecution, withholding of removal requires a clear probability or a more likely than not standard.
  • No Path to Permanent Residence: Unlike asylum, which can lead to permanent residence (green card) after one year, withholding of removal does not provide a path to permanent residency. It is a form of protection from removal, allowing the individual to stay in the U.S. but without the long-term benefits associated with asylum.
  • No Travel Authorization: Individuals granted withholding of removal do not receive the same travel authorization as asylees. Asylees can travel abroad and return to the U.S., but individuals with withholding of removal may face difficulties re-entering the country if they travel abroad.

What is Protection Under CAT?

Protection Under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) is a form of relief available in the U.S. for individuals who fear torture or severe mistreatment if returned to their home country. 

This protection is granted under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which the U.S.is a party.

Here are some key points about Protection Under CAT:

  • Eligibility Criteria: To qualify for protection under CAT, an individual must demonstrate that it is more likely than not that they would face torture if returned to their home country. This is a higher standard than the “well-founded fear of persecution” required for asylum.
  • No Requirement for a Convention Refugees Status: Unlike asylum or withholding of removal, there is no requirement for the applicant to establish that they meet the definition of a refugee. The focus is specifically on the risk of torture.
  • No Statutory Bars: There are no statutory bars to protection under CAT, meaning that individuals who may be barred from other forms of relief could still be eligible for CAT protection.
  • No Path to Permanent Residence: Similar to withholding of removal, protection under CAT does not provide a path to permanent residency in the U.S. It is a form of protection from removal, allowing the individual to stay in the U.S.

Applicants for protection under CAT typically file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal with USCIS. 

What is the deadline to file Form I-589?

The deadline to file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, is within one year of the applicant’s arrival in the U.S. 

This one-year filing deadline is a requirement unless the applicant can demonstrate changed or extraordinary circumstances that prevented them from filing within that time frame.

Failure to file the application within the required timeframe could result in a denial of the asylum application unless the applicant qualifies for an exception.

Exceptions to the 1-year Form I-589 filing deadline

The general rule is that an individual must file the Form I-589 within one year of their arrival in the U.S. 

However, there are two types exceptions to this one-year filing deadline:

  • Changed Circumstances: If there are changed circumstances that materially affect the applicant’s eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances relating to the delay in filing.
  • Extraordinary circumstances: events or factors directly related to the failure to meet the 1-year filing deadline. 

Exceptions to the 1-year filing deadline are discussed in detail in our guide.

How to submit Form I-589?

Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, can be submitted online or by mail. 

How to file Form I-589 online

To file Form I-589 online, create an online USCIS account: https://myaccount.uscis.gov/

You will need to answer all questions and submit the requested documents online.

You will be able to download the electronic version of receipt notice from your online USCIS account.

Hard copy notices will also be sent to your mailing address.

Filing Form I-589 online is preferred, because it allows you to:

  • Have electronic access to all notices (registration, biometrics appointment, interview, etc.)
  • Have an electronic copy of the application filed
  • Upload additional documents 
  • Track the status of your application online
  • Change your physical or mailing address online

 How to submit Form I-589 by mail

To file Form I-589 application to USCIS by mail, take the following steps:

Step 1. Complete the Form:

  • Fill out Form I-589 accurately and completely. Ensure that all required fields are filled, and provide detailed information about your asylum claim. 
  • Use the most current edition of Form I-589 available on the USCIS website
  • Outdated editions of Form I-589 will be rejected by USCIS and you might miss the 1-year filing deadline
  • Sign and date the form. Unsigned or undated forms will be rejected by USCIS

Step 2. Gather Supporting Documents:

  • Collect all required supporting documents. See the checklist of required documents below
  • Make a photocopy of the application filed for your records

Step 3. Mail the Application:

  • Mail the completed Form I-589, along with supporting documents to correct USCIS filing address. The mailing address varies based on your location. Check the filing address on USCIS Form I-589 page (“Where to File” section).
  • Failure to mail the application to the correct address might result in rejection or significant delay in registration

Step 4. Receive a Receipt Notice:

  • Once USCIS receives your application, you will be sent a receipt notice by mail confirming that your Form I-589 has been received and is being processed.
  • If you do not receive such confirmation notice within 2-3 weeks, most likely your application wasn’t registered by USCIS. You might need to refile your application

Step 5. Waiting for a Decision:

  • After submitting your application, you will need to wait for USCIS to process it. The processing time can vary, and you will be required to attend a biometrics appointment. It can take anywhere from 1.5 months to 10 years to receive an interview date at USCIS asylum office.

Form I-589 checklist of required documents

When filing Form I-589, it’s important to submit a well-documented application to support your claim. 

While the specific documents required may vary based on individual circumstances, here is a general checklist of documents that you need to include in your Form I-589 application:

Examples of acceptable documents

(submit PHOTOCOPIES only)

Signed and dated Form I-589
  • You must use the most current edition of Form I-589 that is available on the USCIS website
  • Outdated editions of Form I-589 will be rejected and your application will not be registered
  • Answer all questions on Form I-589
Applicant’s color passport-style photograph
  • Attach the photograph to Form I-589
  • Applicant’s family members who are present in the US and will be included in the main applicant’s Form I-589 must also provide color passport-style photographs
  • Might not be required for online submissions, check the USCIS Form I-589 instructions before submitting
Certified English translation
  • All documents in a foreign language must be accompanied by certified English translation
  • Attach copies of original documents in a foreign language too
Applicant’s birth certificate
  • Birth certificate
Applicant’s ID documents
  • Foreign ID
  • Military ID
  • Driver’s license
  • Any other government IDs
U.S. entry documentation
  • U.S. visa
  • I-94 record
  • CBP stamp
Detailed sworn declaration
  • A sworn declaration of the applicant describing in detail his/her background, persecution suffered in the home country, all relevant information that will help to establish the “well-rounded fear of persecution” claim
Proof of affiliation 
  • Membership cards
  • Political party membership cards
  • Letters from organizations you belonged to
  • Any other documents demonstrating affiliation to a social group, political party, organization, institution, etc.
Witness affidavits
  • Sworn affidavits from witnesses who can support your asylum claim (for example, witnesses who have personal knowledge of the events you experience in your home country)
  • ID documents of witnesses
Photographs Photographs depicting:

  • Your injuries
  • Events described in applicant’s sworn affidavit (for example, opposition rallies)
  • People described in applicant’s sworn affidavit
Medical records
  • Medical records corroborating the harm suffered by the applicant
Mental health records
  • Mental health records (from abroad and the U.S., if applicable) confirming diagnosis and/or treatment for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), etc. caused by persecution
Media articles Articles describing the events mentioned in the applicant’s sworn declaration:

  • Newspaper articles
  • Website articles
  • Any other media articles (social media posts, etc.)
Police reports
  • Police reports
Arrest records
  • Arrest warrants
  • Subpoenas
  • Arrest records
County expert report and/or testimony
  • Country expert written record
  • Country expert CV
Country Conditions Reports
  • Reports and articles on country conditions (for example:
Criminal records
  • Applicant’s certified final dispositions for any arrests, charges, citations, or convictions in any country of the world and the U.S.
Additional copies of the application for each family member
  • If applicant’s family members are to be included in the asylum application, additional copies of the application must be provided
  • Check the current USCIS Form I-589 instructions before submitting
If adding family members in your application
  • If applicant’s family members (spouse and children) are to be included in the asylum application, provide:
    • Marriage certificate for a spouse
    • Birth certificate for a child
    • Each family member’s passport
    • Each family member’s US visa
    • Each family member’s I-94 record
    • Each family member’s CBP stamp

Form I-589 filing fee

There is no filing fee to submit Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal with USCIS.

Form I-589 processing time

It can take anywhere from 2 months to 15 years to obtain asylum in the U.S.

The processing time for asylum applications can vary based on the following factors:

  • Workload of the immigration authorities (USCIS and immigration courts)
  • Complexity of the case
  • Specific circumstances of the applicant. 

Below is a general timeline of the asylum process:

  • Filing the Asylum Application: After filing Form I-589, the applicant will receive a registration notice within a few weeks.
  • Biometrics Appointment: The biometrics appointment usually is scheduled within 1-2 months after filing the application.
  • Asylum Interview: Following the biometrics appointment, the applicant will be scheduled for an asylum interview with an asylum officer. The scheduling of the interview can take anywhere from 1.5 months to 10 years.
  • Decision: After the interview, the asylum officer will make a decision. The timeframe for receiving a decision is 2 weeks. In some cases, it might take longer.
  • Immigration Court Proceedings (if necessary): If the asylum application is denied, the applicant will be referred to immigration court. Immigration court proceedings can take anywhere from 6 months to 5 years.
  • Appeals (if necessary): If the case goes to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the time required for the appeal process is 2-4 years.

It’s important to note that these timeframes are general estimates, and individual cases may experience shorter or longer processing times. 

My Form I-589 was registered. When can I apply for Employment Authorization?

Yes, after your asylum application is registered, you can apply for employment authorization while your asylum application is pending. 

To do so, you must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Below is the Employment Authorization application process:

Step 1. Eligibility:

  • You are eligible to apply for employment authorization 150 days after submitting an asylum application. You cannot file it earlier.

Step 2. Filing Form I-765:

  • Complete and submit Form I-765 to USCIS. Along with the form, you will need to include supporting documentation, such as a copy of your Form I-589 receipt notice (acknowledging your asylum application) and any other required documents specified in the Form I-765 instructions.
  • There is no filing fee for your first Form I-765 application
  • Your filing category is (c)(8) – based on a pending asylum application 

Step 3. Biometrics Appointment:

  • Once USCIS receives your Form I-765, you will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment, during which your fingerprints, photograph, and signature will be collected. Sometimes USCIS can reuse previously collected biometrics and you will not be required to attend the appointment again.

Step 3. Processing Time:

  • The processing time for Form I-765 can take anywhere from 1.5 months to 6 months to complete. You can check the USCIS website for the most current processing times.

Step 4. Issuance of Employment Authorization Document (EAD):

  • If your application is approved, you will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), commonly known as a work permit. The EAD will be valid for 2 years.

Step 5. Renewal:

  • If your asylum application is still pending when your initial EAD expires, you can apply for a renewal of your employment authorization. 
  • You can file a renewal application 6 months before the expiration date of your current EAD.
  • There’s a $410 filing fee for each EAD renewal application. Check the most current EAD filing fee on USCIS Form I-765 page
  • Renewed EAD will be valid for 2 years

Can I stay in the U.S. while my Form I-589 is being reviewed?

Yes, individuals who have filed Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, are generally allowed to stay in the U.S. while their application is being reviewed. 

This is often referred to as “asylum pending” status.

Here are some important rules to consider:

  • Filing for Asylum Status: Filing Form I-589 initiates the process of seeking asylum in the U.S. Asylum seekers are generally allowed to remain in the U.S. while their application is pending.
  • Employment Authorization: Asylum applicants are eligible to apply for employment authorization (work permit) 150 days (approximately 5 months) after filing their Form I-589, provided there has been no decision on their asylum application. This allows them to work legally in the U.S. while awaiting a decision.
  • Derivative Status for Family Members: Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of the principal asylum applicant may also be included in the asylum application and can also apply for employment authorization.
  • Tracking Status of the Application: It’s important to update your mailing address with USCIS and keep tracking the status of your case online. Failure to appear for a scheduled biometric appointment and interview may negatively impact the asylum case.
  • Travel Restrictions: It’s generally advisable to remain in the U.S. and not travel abroad until a decision is made.

Can I travel outside the U.S. after Form I-589 is filed?

While your Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, is pending, it is generally not advisable to travel outside the U.S. 

Leaving the country while your asylum application is pending can have serious consequences, including the potential abandonment of your asylum claim.

Related Links:

Asylum (Requirements, How to Apply)

Exceptions to Asylum Application One-Year Filing Deadline