How to Write an Asylum Declaration to Go With Your I-589 Application

A step-by-step overview of writing an asylum declaration, or a written statement explaining why you are applying for asylum and meet the eligibility requirements.

By , Attorney Oklahoma City University School of Law
Updated 1/30/2023

When you apply for asylum in the United States, you must also submit not only an application form (I-589), but an asylum declaration (also sometimes referred to as a "statement"). The reason is to explain why you fear persecution if you are returned to your country of citizenship. The idea is to give the U.S. asylum officer or immigration judge who reviews your case a clear picture of your story and why you should be granted this form of humanitarian protection. It is one of the most important pieces of evidence in an asylum case.

Let's look at some of the basic information your asylum declaration should include and the questions it should answer for the person reading it.

Is There a Sample Asylum Declaration I Can Use?

Because every asylum case is unique, every asylum declaration is going to be different. The last thing you should do is to take a declaration written by someone else and simply insert your name plus a few personal facts. When writing your declaration, remember that the reader does not know anything about you or your past. You want it to be as detailed and specific as possible, with names, dates, and locations, not to mention true. Any suspicion that you made up information will lead not only to your case being denied, but to a bar on you being granted any U.S. immigration benefit.

What to Include In an Asylum Declaration

Your asylum declaration must be written in English. If you are more comfortable writing in another language, you can write the declaration in your preferred language then have it translated into English. This will ensure that your statement is written clearly and completely.

When submitting your Form I-589, you should also submit the English version of your declaration, the version written in your preferred language, and a signed statement from the translator that they translated the document fully and is competent in both languages.

While there is no required format for an asylum declaration, it is best to type yours, provide headings for different sections, and write about events in the order that they happened. Typing the declaration makes it easier to read, while headings provide a "map" to help the reader understand your story. Common headings include:

  • Background
  • Past Persecution
  • Well-Founded Fear of Future Persecution
  • Relocation
  • Lack of Government Protection
  • Conclusion.

Depending on your situation, you might need to include additional sections, such as sections explaining changed or extraordinary circumstances for missing the one-year asylum filing deadline or any criminal history. Let's go over what each of the sections listed above might include.

Writing About Your Background

Each asylum declaration should start with the applicant's basic information, including name, date of birth, and country of origin.

You'll also need to explain the "ground" on which your asylum application is based. The "grounds" are your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and membership in a particular social group. Unless you can show that the persecution was because you match one of these grounds, you won't be granted asylum.

If you are applying based on your race or nationality (including ethnic group), write what your race or nationality is.

If you are applying based on your religion, write about what your religion is, how long you have been practicing it, and any religious rituals or traditions you take part in.

If you are applying based on your political opinion, explain what that political opinion is, how long you have held it, and what sort of political activities you are involved in. Even an opinion that others believe you held, called "imputed political opinion," can count for this purpose.

If you are applying based on your membership in a particular social group, explain what the group is, why you are a part of it, and how society in your country of origin views that group.

Writing About Past Persecution

If you suffered persecution in your home country in the past, you should write about each incident. These might include, for example, threats, beatings, unlawful arrests, kidnappings, or property damage. You might also want to include incidents that happened to your family, colleagues, or other people like you. Even if an incident does not necessarily rise to the level of persecution, it is important to discuss that incident if it is related to your case and helps fill in a picture of what happened and explain why you were fearful enough to flee.

Again, try to write about events in the order they occurred. If you can remember the date, provide it. If you cannot, try to provide a time frame, such as "in the spring of 2020" or "in approximately June of 2022." Try to answer the following questions:

  • When did the incident happen?
  • Where did the incident happen?
  • What events led up to the incident?
  • Was anyone else present? If so, what is there name and relation to you?
  • Who persecuted you?
  • Did you report the incident to government authorities? If yes, how did they respond? If no, why didn't you report it?
  • Why do you think this happened to you?
  • Why didn't the government protect you?

Writing About Your Well-Founded Fear of Future Persecution

Whether you have suffered past persecution or your application is based solely on a well-founded fear of future persecution, you should discuss why you fear persecution in the future. This could include writing about other people like you who have been persecuted or ongoing threats being made against you or people like you in your country of origin.

Writing About the Risks of Relocating Within Your Country

This section should explain why you are not able to safely move to another part of your country of origin. This might include explaining that your persecutor has connections throughout the country and would be able to locate you wherever you go.

Writing About Lack of Government Protection

Explain in this section why you believe the government of your country cannot or will not protect you from persecution. This might include discussing the government failure to respond to incidents of persecution in the past (even if such incidents came from non-government actors, such as civil patrol or vigilante groups), the government's own persecution of people like you, or corruption within the government or law enforcement authorities.

Writing a Conclusion to Your Asylum Declaration

The end of your declaration should summarize why you should be granted asylum. Think about the following questions, and try to answer them in one or two sentences:

  • Why do you fear persecution (your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group)?
  • Who do you fear will persecute you?
  • What will happen to you if you are returned to your country of origin?
  • Why is there nowhere in your country of origin that is safe for you to live in?
  • Why won't the government of your country protect you?

Finishing Your Asylum Declaration

After you have written your asylum declaration, read through it again to make sure it is complete and clear. If you are comfortable having another person read it, ask that person whether it makes sense and doesn't leave any unanswered issues or cause confusion.

Once you have completed the declaration, sign it in the presence of a notary public.

Getting Legal Help

If you are unsure about what to write in your asylum declaration, or about other issues like your basic eligibility for asylum, an experienced immigration attorney can help you. Also see How to Get a Lawyer to Represent You Pro Bono (Free) in Immigration Court Removal Proceedings.

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