A number of factors can cause U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to deny an application for asylum from someone who is genuinely afraid of persecution in his or her home country. For instance, perhaps you tried to prepare the Form I-589 application yourself, without fully understanding the law. Or perhaps you sought help from an unqualified immigration consultant who filled in the application without much actual consultation with you. At this point, if you were in the U.S. unlawfully, your case would be referred to immigration court, for a hearing before a judge. But if you are here on a tourist, work, student, or other temporary (nonimmigrant) visa, and your permitted stay hasn't expired yet, such a referral won't happen. What's next?
The good news is, you may be able to apply for asylum again.
Be aware that U.S. immigration law imposes serious penalties on people who knowingly submit a “frivolous” asylum application to USCIS. An asylum application is considered frivolous when the applicant knowingly falsified important or material, portions of the story. Penalties can include a permanent ban on receiving any U.S. immigration benefit, such as asylum or any family- or employment-related green card.
Unfortunately, some people find themselves in this situation because they hired and relied on an unqualified consultant. If so, perhaps you did not even know what that person wrote on your asylum application. Hopefully you also did not try to testify to any false claims that might have been presented there. If that's true, you may, in your next application, be able to convince an asylum officer that you did not knowingly file a false application, and that you do have a valid claim for asylum.
If you yourself filled out the asylum application without understanding the law, the key question is whether you made up anything, in your effort to present what you thought was a convincing case. Affirmative lies will be a problem going forward. Omissions of important facts will be less of a problem, particularly if you can explain why you didn't realize they were important to mention.
You will have a higher burden of proof with your second application (that is, you'll have to work harder to be convincing) because of the denial of the first one. In addition to meeting the criteria for affirmative asylum, you must be able to fully explain what happened with your first application.
To help with this, you should submit a statement explaining not only your true asylum case, but accounting for what went wrong the first time. Supply documentary proof when relevant.
For instance, if you were assisted by an unscrupulous or incompetent immigration consultant, include that person's name, address, and phone number. If you have the person's business card, submit a copy and bring the original to your interview. In your statement, list all of the meetings you had with this person and describe in as much detail as possible what he or she said or advised you to do.
USCIS is aware that there are individuals, often called notarios, who falsely advertise themselves as immigration experts. The agency does investigate those people when it has enough information about them, and can sometimes prosecute and imprison them.
Obviously, your second application will need to address any problems that resulted in the denial of the first one. Was the asylum officer confused by your story or distracted by an irrelevant aspect of it? Did you fail to put forth important information? These are important concerns when preparing a second application.
Keep in mind that the asylum officer took notes during your first interview. Those notes will be in the file for your second. The officer who meets with you will have reviewed the notes, and the Form I-589, and will be able to confirm the statements you made at the first interview. If any of those statements might work against you, think ahead about how to deal with them, including in your statement.
Not only must you clearly and thoroughly explain any confusion and omissions in your first asylum application, you must prepare a complete new asylum application; one that accurately reflects your experience in your home country and shows why you fear persecution if you return there.
You will need to fill out Form I-589 again and obtain new photos. You will once again be called in to have your fingerprints taken, and you will attend a new interview. For information on how to best prepare your asylum application, see Nolo's articles on Applying for Asylum or Refugee Status.
It would also be wise to find a licensed immigration attorney who has experience with asylum claims. The attorney should review the circumstances concerning your first application, and spend the time necessary to learn your story. The attorney will help you prepare your statement and supporting documents and review your second application with you before submitting it to USCIS.