If you wish to request asylum in the U.S., you are expected to apply for it within one year of your last entry into the country. (See I.N.A. § 208(a)(2)(B).) If you entered the U.S. using a nonimmigrant visa (such as a tourist or student visa), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has adopted a policy of counting the one-year period from the day when your valid visa status expired.
If you are applying affirmatively (on your own initiative, not in deportation proceedings), USCIS must receive your application on the one-year anniversary of your last entry into the United States or the expiration of your status, or the next business day if that day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. For example, if you last entered the U.S. on April 8, 2019, you must file on or before April 8, 2020. If April 8, 2020 happened to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, you could file on the next business day, the Monday after.
If you fail to establish that you filed on time or that an exception applies to you, the Asylum Officer who handles your case will refer your application to an Immigration Judge. For details about applying for asylum with the Asylum Office, see How to Prepare an Affirmative Asylum Application.
If you are applying for asylum defensively (that is, after having been referred to or otherwise placed in removal proceedings), you also must apply within one year of your last entry or expiration of your status under a visa or other permitted stay. However, you will need to submit your application to the Immigration Judge instead of sending it to USCIS and attend a court hearing.
Whether you apply affirmatively or defensively, in addition to showing that you are a refugee who qualifies for asylum, you must present evidence that either:
Therefore, as part of your asylum application, you must include:
Possible forms of evidence that you may use to show that you filed within one year of arrival or the expiration of your permitted stay, or that an exception applies to you, include the following:
For more information about how to present strong evidence, see Preparing Persuasive Documents For Your Asylum Application.
“Clear and convincing” evidence means that the evidence you present creates a firm belief that what you assert is true. That is, you must show that it is highly probable that you applied within one year of your last arrival. “Satisfactory” evidence means that you use credible evidence to persuade an Asylum Officer or an Immigration Judge that an exception applies to you.
If you missed the one-year filing deadline, see a reputable attorney. Exceptions to the filing deadline are rarely made. Your ability to prove that an exception applies to you depends on the unique facts of your case. The Asylum Officer or the Immigration Judge will look at all of the facts you present. What qualifies as an exception (a changed or an extraordinary circumstance) for one applicant does not necessarily constitute an exception for another. You must present detailed, consistent, and credible information to increase your chances of qualifying for an exception.
Below is an overview of the two exceptions to the one-year filing deadline.
You must show that a changed circumstance (in your personal life or in conditions in the U.S. or in your home country) was material to your eligibility for asylum, and that you filed within a reasonable time after the circumstance occurred or after you learned of it. An Asylum Officer or an Immigration Judge will consider any delays in your learning of the changed circumstances.
Here are some examples of what might qualify as a “changed circumstance,” depending on the particular facts of your case:
This is not an exhaustive list. Other events might be considered changed circumstances for the purposes of this exception. Consult an attorney for a personal analysis.
You must show that events in your own life (before or after your arrival in the U.S.) directly relate to your failure to file within the one-year filing deadline, and that you filed within a reasonable period after the extraordinary circumstance stopped affecting you. You must also show that you did not intentionally create such extraordinary circumstances (through your own action or inaction).
Here are some examples of what might be considered an “extraordinary circumstance,” depending on the totality of the facts of your case:
Other life events might be considered “extraordinary circumstances” for the purposes of this exception. For example, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you might have good reasons to explain why a shelter-in-place order impeded your ability to prepare your case. Consult an attorney if you have questions.
If you argue that an exception to the filing deadline should apply to you, you must also prove that you filed your asylum application within a reasonable time after the changed or extraordinary circumstance occurred.
What is “reasonable” depends on the unique combination of all the facts of your case. Asylum Officers and Immigration Judges look at what a reasonable person in your unique circumstances would have done. In addition to the specific events that caused your delay in filing, other relevant factors that they might consider include:
Typically, a delay of just a few months might be “reasonable,” but a one-year delay is usually not. Therefore, try to file your application as soon as possible after the occurrence of any changed or extraordinary circumstance. You will need to provide detailed and credible evidence regarding your filing within a “reasonable” time.