- Q: What is USCIS?
A: USCIS stands for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
It is the agency of the U.S. government principally responsible
in matters dealing with aliens in the United States. This includes
giving it jurisdiction over aspects of asylum and withholding
of removal. Prior to March of 2003, the USCIS was called the Immigration
and Naturalization Service (INS). For a brief period of time,
it was known as the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
(BCIS). It is also sometimes just referred to as the CIS. For
purposes of this web site, we use the current accepted name of
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS.
- Q: Who is handling my case if I retain Z&A?
A: Our attorneys handle their clients' cases individually by preparing
petition letters, contacting clients, and following up pending
cases. That's why we have more attorneys than clerks. Our clerks'
main objective is to help attorneys prepare clients' packages,
and each client's package will be reviewed by one of our most
experienced attorneys for final checking before sending out the
package to the USCIS.
How does the asylum process work?
This depends on whether the asylum application is made affirmatively
or in response to removal proceedings.
For an affirmatively filed asylum application, the asylum application
is filed with a USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over
asylum cases in the state in which the applicant resides. NOTE:
This is not necessarily the same service center for processing
general immigration matters for this state. After being filed
at the Service Center, the application is forwarded to a local
asylum office that will schedule the applicant for an interview
with an asylum officer, usually within 30 days of receiving the
application. The applicant will be questioned about his asylum
claim during the interview. If the applicant does not speak English,
a friend, relative, or interpreter may accompany him to the interview
to translate. The applicant may also have an attorney present
with him during the interview. At the end of the interview, the
applicant is usually asked to return to the asylum office on a
certain date to get the decision of the case.
For an application in response to removal proceedings, the asylum
application is filed in the immigration court hearing the removal
proceedings. A hearing will be set for the judge to hear evidence
in support of and against the asylum application. An interpreter
will be provided by the court if needed. An attorney for the government
will be present and will have the right to ask questions and argue
against a granting of asylum. After all evidence and arguments
are heard the immigration judge will decide whether or not to
Do I need an attorney to file an asylum application?
It is very important to understand that the person making
a decision on your asylum claim may not be familiar with your
country or the political and social circumstances there. As a
result, asylum claims are decided based primarily on the evidence
submitted as well as on the credibility of your written and oral
statements. If you do not provide very detailed information in
a well-organized manner, your claim for asylum will likely be
denied, even if you have a genuine fear of persecution in your
country. Moreover, time is of the essence in asylum applications.
Because of the time limits on filing an asylum claim, it is important
to begin as early as possible the preparation of your application
and the evidence that will be submitted in support of your application.
Will a translator be provided for me at the asylum interview?
No. If you are not fluent in English, you will need to provide
a translator over the age of 18 who is not your attorney or your
witness. If you do not provide a proper translator for your interview,
it will result in a determination that you did not appear at your
What happens after my asylum case is approved by the asylum officer?
If your case is approved by the asylum officer and you remain
in the U.S. for one year, you are eligible to apply for permanent
May I file for asylum if i am out of status?
Yes, only physical presence in the United States is required.
A person who is out of status may obtain legal status if granted
Asylum. The only problem is that if the Asylum application is
denied, the alien will be placed in removal proceedings.
May I file for asylum if i am in legal status?
Yes, anyone physically present in the United States may file
for Asylum. If asylum is granted, the alien will receive a new
status, Asylee. If asylum is denied, the alien will be returned
to whatever legal status he or she would otherwise have. CAUTION,
if your status expires, by the time of your asylum interview,
then you will be placed in removal proceedings unless the asylum
interviewer determines that you should be given asylum.
What kind of information is required for an asylum application?
In addition to the actual asylum application form itself,
most successful asylum applications usually contain hundreds of
pages of supporting documentation, including newspaper articles;
statements by country experts; reports from government and human
rights organizations; and affidavits from the applicant and from
the applicant's family, colleagues, or friends. As you can you
see, an asylum application is a time-consuming process. This is
one of the reasons why we recommend you contact an experienced
immigration attorney as early as possible in order to meet the
statutorily imposed one-year time limit.
May I leave the country after I have submitted my asylum application?
No. An applicant who leaves the United States is presumed
to have abandoned his application for asylum or withholding of
Why would I want to seek withholding of removal?
Withholding of Removal is purely an alternative relief to
be sought while seeking asylum. Everyone would always prefer to
seek Asylum, but there are many bars to asylum that do not apply
to Withholding of Removal (such as the 1 year filing requirement).
Do I need to prove past persecution to qualify?
No. You only need to prove a well-founded fear of persecution
to qualify for asylum. If you are a member of a group whose members
are being persecuted in your home country or country of last habitual
residence, you may qualify for asylum on the basis of a fear of
persecution in the future.
If I am in removal proceedings may I apply?
Yes. Asylum and Withholding of Removal can be used to prevent
removal, even if one would otherwise be removable. If the Immigration
Court finds you to be removable (e.g. your legal statues has expired),
the Court will then decide whether, you qualify for Asylum or
Withholding of Removal, provided that you have filed an Application
for Asylum or Withholding of Removal. If the court rules in your
favor, you will not be removed to the country where persecution
If I have been in the United States for over one year, may I file
for asylum or withholding of removal?
Yes, but your request for asylum will be approved only if
you can show one of the exceptions to the one-year filing deadline.
Also, there is no one-year filing requirement for Withholding
If I have been in the united states for over one year, and i do
not qualify for any of the exceptions, may i apply for asylum?
No, you may seek asylum only if you file within one year
of your entry into the United States. If you have been placed
in removal proceedings, you may seek Withholding of Removal.
If I have had an asylum application denied in the past, can i
still apply for asylum?
Possibly. A prior denial is a basis to deny a new asylum
application only if the denial was from an Immigration Court or
the Board of Immigration Appeals. If your asylum claim was denied
by an Asylum Officer and you were simply returned to your other
legal status, then you may still apply for asylum.
If I am a practitioner/adherent of Fa Lun Gong, may I apply for
Yes, if you can claim that you have a well-founded fear of
persecution in your home country because of your involvement with
Fa Lun Gong. Our office has successfully petitioned for asylum
on the basis of Fa Lun Gong.
What happens if my asylum case is denied by the asylum officer?
If your asylum claim is denied by the asylum officer, you
will be placed into removal proceedings if you are out of status
or it is determined that you are otherwise subject to removal.
However, we can renew your asylum claim in Immigration Court and
have it re-heard by the Immigration Judge. If your status is current
when you filed for asylum, the denial of your asylum will have
no effect on your status.
What happens if I am in legal status and my Asylum application
You will simply be returned to the legal status you had before
you applied for asylum.
Can I apply for asylum for my family?
Yes, a spouse and minor children who are in the U.S. can
be included in your asylum application. If you do not include
such relatives who are in the U.S., they will not qualify for
asylum together with you. Instead, you will need to file a separate
petition for them after your own asylum is approved. If they are
out of the U.S., you may apply for their entry into the U.S. after
you are granted asylum.
What are the benefits from asylum?
There are several benefits from asylum. First the alien is
in legal Asylee status for as long as the conditions in the home
country are cause for a well-founded fear of persecution. This
is particularly valuable for those who have lost legal status
or whose status will soon expire. Second, the Asylee can get a
work authorization. Third, the asylee may petition for his or
her spouse and minor children to enter the US. Finally, the asylee,
spouse and minor children may petition for adjustment of status
to permanent resident after a year of the grant of Asylum.
How long does it take to process an asylum application?
The total amount of time can vary depending on whether the
asylum application is processed as an affirmative application
or as defense to removal proceedings. In an affirmative petition,
the Asylum Office is supposed to give an asylum interview within
45 days of the filing of the application. A decision from the
Asylum Office usually comes within a few weeks. If the Asylum
Office does not approve the application and the applicant is placed
in removal proceedings or if the asylum application is filed only
after first being placed in removal proceedings, the alien will
have a first hearing before an immigration court within a few
weeks. In removal proceedings in which an asylum application is
filed, the immigration court is supposed to set a hearing to determine
whether to grant asylum within 180 days of the date of the hearing
in which the Court determines that an Asylum Application has been
filed, although the hearing can be postponed in some circumstances.
If I am out of status and my asylum application is denied, what
First you must understand that an asylum application by a
person out of status cannot be denied by the asylum officer in
an affirmative petition. If the asylum officer chooses not to
approve the application, the officer may only refer the case to
an immigration court for removal proceedings. Only in the removal
proceedings before the immigration court can the applicant be
denied asylum. If such denial is made, the alien will be ordered
removed from the U.S. Of course, an appeal can be made to such
If I am in status, and my affirmative application is denied by
the asylum officer, may I appeal the decision?
No. There is only an appeal from an order of removal by an
immigration court. If the applicant's petition is denied by the
asylum officer, the applicant is restored to his or her previous
non-immigrant status, but there is no appeal.
If I am in removal proceedings and I have been in the country
for over one year and do not have any excuse for not seeking asylum
sooner, do I have any defense through asylum or withholding of
Possibly. The failure to file the application within one
year is not a bar to seeking "Withholding of Removal". If you
can establish that it is more likely than not that you will be
persecuted in the home country, you may still remain in the U.S.
because of Withholding of Removal.
How do I seek asylum if I am not in removal proceedings?
By filing an Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal
(Form I-589) with the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction
over asylum cases in your area. NOTE: This is not necessarily
the same service center for processing general immigration matters
for this state.
How do I seek asylum if I am in removal proceedings?
By filing an Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal
(Form I-589) with the immigration court hearing your removal proceedings.
If I have been in the U.S. under legal status for over a year,
will I still be subject to the one-year filing rule?
Yes. The rule applies to legal stays as well as illegal stays.
You may still qualify for one of the exceptions to the rule, however.
What is the filing fee for an Asylum Application?
None. There is no filing fee for these cases.
What are my chances of getting Asylum or Withholding of Removal?
Every case is different. You will need to consult directly
with an attorney for this question.
Who has the burden of establishing qualification for Asylum or
Withholding of Removal?
The alien seeking the relief has the burden of proof.
What is the difference between Asylum and Withholding of Removal?
Asylum is a means for acquiring legal status and several
immigration benefits on the basis of one’s fear of persecution
in his/her home country. Apart from the right to remain in the
United States, a person granted asylum (an asylee) may also work
in the U.S., bring family members to the United States from his
home country, and eventually apply for permanent residency. On
the other hand, Withholding of Removal is merely a means of not
being removed to a country where there is a likelihood that one
would be persecuted. An alien granted Withholding of Removal is
technically not in any legal status in the United States. The
only other benefit Withholding of Removal is that the alien may
work in the United States as long as he is protected from removal.
In certain circumstances a person may be denied Asylum yet granted
Withholding of Removal, such as discretionary
denial of asylum that does not apply to Withholding of Removal
bars to asylum that do not apply to Withholding of Removal.
Do I have to choose between Asylum and Withholding of Removal?
No. You always seek asylum with withholding of removal being
an alternative relief in the event that asylum is denied. Anyone
seeking asylum will be considered to also be seeking withholding
What do I need to prove to qualify for asylum?
You need to prove that you have a well-founded fear of persecution
on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion
and/or membership in a particular social group in your home country.
A well-founded fear means that a reasonable person in your circumstances
would fear persecution in the particular country. You do not need
to prove that you are likely to be persecuted.
What do I need to prove to qualify for Withholding of Removal?
You need to prove that it is more likely than not that you
will be persecuted on the basis of race, religion, nationality,
political opinion and/or membership in a particular social group
in your home country.
If the burden of proof for Withholding of Removal is greater than
that for asylum, how would anyone ever be able to qualify for
Withholding of Removal and not Asylum?
Although, one may meet the burden of proof to show he or
she should get Asylum, there are other factors to show that he
or she should not get Asylum. These factors include discretionary
denial of an otherwise qualified applicant and a number of bars
to Asylum eligibility. There is no discretionary denial of Withholding
of Removal and many of the bars to Asylum do not apply to Withholding
What are the bars to asylum?
The following factors may serve as a bar to asylum: