In the affirmative asylum process, the foreign national “affirmatively” files an Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, Form I-589, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This application must be filed within one year of entrance into the U.S., unless justified by an unexpected change of circumstances.
For instance, let's suppose that a foreign born physician immigrates to the United States under a three-year H-1B visa. Two years later, a civil war breaks out in the physician's home country and reports began to surface that members of his clan are being persecuted. In this case, if the physician applies for affirmative asylum, his application won't be denied simply because it wasn't filed within the first year of his entrance into the U.S.
Upon receipt of the application, USCIS will send a notice to any applicant between 14 and 79 years of age to have his or her fingerprints taken. The fingerprints will be sent to the FBI for a background/security check. In addition, a copy of the application is sent to the State Department, FBI and CIA for background/security checks.
Next, the applicant will be scheduled for an interview with an Asylum Officer at one of the eight regional asylum offices or at a district office. At the interview, the applicant will be asked to take an oath promising to tell the truth during the interview. The Asylum Officer will verify the applicant's identity and ask the applicant basic biographical questions. Also, to the extent the applicant has listed a spouse and dependent children on her application, those family members must attend the interview as well. If an interpreter is needed, then the applicant is responsible for providing the interpreter. The main purpose of the interview is to allow the Asylum Officer to determine if the applicant meets the requirements for asylum and whether any bars apply to being granted asylum.
In our next article we will discuss asylum qualifications.