I am a citizen of Pakistan who entered the United States in 2000. I originally arrived on a visa, but it ran out and I have been working in a friend’s store. I had been planning all along to apply for asylum, but had not gotten around to it. And now I have discovered that I cannot apply for asylum here because of the one-year filing deadline bar. My aunt is a Canadian citizen and I want to apply for asylum in Canada. Can I?
The United States and Canada have an agreement governing situations like yours, called a Safe Third Country Agreement. This means that a person must apply for asylum in whichever of the two countries he or she arrives in first.
If the United States is the first country you entered after leaving Pakistan, the Safe Third Country Agreement says your only choice is to apply for asylum here in the United States.
Before determining that the U.S application route is impossible, you might want to look into whether you fall into an exception allowing for a late application. There are described in Nolo’s article, “Can I Still Apply for Asylum After the One-Year Filing Deadline?”
There are many exceptions to this Safe Third Country Agreement, including an exception for applicants who have ties to family members who have status in Canada. Since your aunt is a Canadian citizen, you should be exempt from the Safe Third Country Agreement and be allowed to seek asylum in Canada.
Consider consulting with at least one experienced immigration attorney -- perhaps one in the U.S. as well as one in Canada -- before deciding how to proceed. Once you leave the United States, you may be subject to a three- or ten-year bar upon your return, depending on how long you have been in the U.S. without lawful immigration status.