Asylum applications must be filed within one year after the date of a person’s most recent entry into the United States -- and you will need to prove your date of entry, which can be tricky if you entered without being inspected by a U.S. border official.
(There are a few exceptions to the one-year rule, like when certain circumstances have changed or if you can prove that extraordinary circumstances directly caused you to wait to file your claim. See Immigration and Nationality ActSection 208(a)(2)(B) and Section 208(a)(2)(D)). For information on the one year filing deadline and exceptions to the rule, see Nolo's article, "Can I Still Apply for Asylum After the One-Year Filing Deadline?")
This article will look at how to prove you filed your application within one year of entering the United States when you walked across the border.
What "Entering Without Inspection" Means
If you entered the United States without presenting papers to a government official at a border point, chances are you have entered without inspection or "EWI." Examples of people who enter without inspection are those who cross the border from Mexico to the United States on foot or hidden in a vehicle as well as people who cross into the United States by foot, car or boat from Canada. If you entered the U.S. without inspection you are here unlawfully.
When to File an Asylum Application After an EWI
Like everyone else who files an asylum application (after April 16, 1998), you must file yours within one year of your most recent entry into the U.S. unless you can prove that an exception applies to you.
When an asylum application is received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency stamps it with a date. An Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge will count backwards 364 days from the date stamped on your asylum application to come up with the date by which you must have entered the United States.
How to Prove You Entered Within the Past Year
Visa holders who were inspected when they entered the U.S. can present a copy of their I-94 or the entry stamp on their passport to prove the entry date. Entering without inspection, however, means that no official record exists of when you came into the United States.
If you entered the U.S. without inspection you will have to convince a judge or officer that you entered the country on a particular date. You will testify about your entry at your interview or hearing, but you should also provide documents to prove when you entered. Types of documents you can present to help your case include:
- Your actual passport, with entry stamps and/or visas for other countries. Any official record from other countries you traveled through on your way to the United States can be helpful in setting a timeline for a judge or officer.
- Your actual passport with exit stamps from your country. An exit stamp from your country can help you prove when you left.
- Airline or bus tickets for travel within the United States. For example, if you entered in Texas then took a plan or bus to New York, a ticket can show what date you were already in the country.
- Affidavits. You can submit an affidavit from friends or family members who can verify when you came to the United States.
- Witnesses. Think about bringing a witness to your interview or hearing. Witnesses can be a person who met you when you entered the U.S. or anyone who can testify under oath the date you entered.
If you don’t have any documents that would help establish the date you entered the U.S., look for documents showing that you were outside of the U.S. in the 364 days before your filing date. If you filed for asylum on June 1, 2013 and can prove that you were in China on March 3, 2013, you should submit that proof. Look for the same types of documents that are listed above. You can also submit receipts, medical bills or records, dated photographs or any other documents that prove that you were physically outside of the United States during the year before you filed your asylum application.
Testimony about when you entered the United States is very important. Officers and judges will often ask you to describe how you entered the United States and you should be able to detail your entry, whether it was on foot or by car or any other way.
Make sure you explain, in detail, how you knew the date you entered the United States. For example, did you notice the calendar on the wall in the smuggler’s house? Did you hear the date on the radio? You must explain how you knew the date in addition to describing your actual entry.
You must convince the judge or officer that you filed your application within one year of your most recent entry. If you can’t, you will be barred from applying for asylum. For those who enter without inspection the task can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Consulting with an attorney experienced in asylum law can help a lot.