Anyone physically present in the United States can file an application for asylum. If you file an asylum application with one of several asylum offices around the country, it generates a receipt notice which usually comes several weeks after filing. A biometric notice follows shortly after the receipt notice. Once biometrics are taken, you must wait months or often years for an interview with the asylum office to be scheduled.
Following the interview, the asylum application can either be granted or denied by the asylum office. If the asylum application is granted, you are eligible to file for a greencard after one year of physical presence in the US as an asylee, and for US citizenship four years and nine months after being granted asylum.
If an asylum application is denied, one of two things can happen, depending upon whether you were in another nonimmigrant status at the time of filing the asylum application and have continued to maintain that status. For example, if you filed for asylum while in F-1 student status, H-1B specialized worker status, or L-1 manager or executive status, you will revert to that status so long as they keep abiding by the terms of that status at the time the asylum application is denied. There is no appeal of that denied asylum application if you remains in status, but if your personal circumstances or conditions in your country change, a request to reopen the asylum application can be filed with the asylum office.
If the you are out of status at the time of the decision from the asylum office, your asylum application will be sent to an immigration court where the judge has another chance to decide on the application. The immigration courts are currently backlogged with thousands of cases and it can be several years before the judge has a chance to decide on the application. The judge reviews the asylum application independent of what the asylum office decided; even if the asylum office denied the application, the judge has the power to grant it.
Coming up soon: what happens if the immigration judge denies my application?
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