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How to Navigate the Asylum Process in New York

Applying for asylum in New York State is a very complex – and high-stakes process. It’s a legal process which requires meticulous preparation and perseverance. This guide will walk you through the process of getting asylum in New York, and it will arm you with the knowledge you need to get through this legal process.

Understanding Asylum

Asylum is a form of protection which is given to foreign nationals that are already present in the United States, or who arrive at a port of entry to the USA. To be eligible for Asylum, you have to meet the definition of a “refugee” – that is, someone unable, or unwilling, to return to their original country due to persecution, or a fear of future persecution based on:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Political opinion
  • Membership in a particular social group

Asylum is discretionary – it means you can be denied Asylum in New York even if you meet the refugee definition. However, if asylum is denied, you can still qualify for “withholding of removal” – which is essentially a way to avoid returning to a place where your life or freedom is in jeopardy.

There Are Many Paths to Asylum

There are three ways to apply for asylum in the U.S.:

George FernandezGeorge Fernandez
14:16 30 Apr 24
Excellent 10 out of 10, Helped resolve my case. Jeremy explained everything and made everything easy to understand.
21:33 24 Apr 24
If you are looking for a lawyer that listens, is aggressive where needed, and holds his word above all else, Todd is the best pick. I had hired multiple attorneys prior to hiring the Spodek Group for a white collar case. The first thing that stood out to me was the cost, as anyone going through the process and dealing with the system, money was tight at that time - especially after hiring and firing multiple lawyers. The cost was not as high as others which was definitely a plus. Todd's intake process was also unlike other attorneys. He took the time to actually listen. He cared. He was trying to put himself in my shoes while I was explaining the situation to him and he really took the time to understand the whole situation. Other lawyers will give you 15 mins and send you a retainer agreement. Not Todd, I think he spent almost two hours with me as I was explaining everything.Not only was he great during the onboarding process, he was supportive and very informative through the entire plea process and eventually sentencing. After hiring him, I asked if I should hire a prison consultant, he told me to save my money as he would do everything they would. He was right and held up to his word. Later on I would hear from others that went with the prison consultants that they were a waste of money - I am glad I listened to Todd!When it came time for sentencing, two days prior to sentencing, the prosecutor tried increasing my proposed prison time by almost double - apparently a normal move. Todd and his team worked with me non-stop through the weekend prior to sentencing to ensure that I was not given additional prison time. Again, he took the time to listen and came up with a strategy to explain the case with great detail.Unfortunately, I did plead guilty as that was my best option. Todd and his whole team wrote up nearly 300 pages of a summary of what happened and why I should not be given prison time. If I breakdown the amount I spent with Todd versus the amount of work that I saw being done, I am shocked I was not charged four times as much. The other benefit was, a lot of criminal defense lawyers were just a single attorney with a paralegal or two. Todd had a team of people that I dealt with (5-7 people that I interacted with), but he was ALWAYS accessible. It would never take him more than an hour to reply unless he was in court.I was sentenced to prison and I was emotionally distraught. Todd and his team did whatever they could even after sentencing to make sure I was alright. He personally stayed in touch with my family to ensure I was doing alright and offered support to them. Most lawyers would consider the job complete at sentencing, not Todd.After prison, Todd still spent time with me to make sure I was on the right track and avoiding any potential risks in the future. He has also been giving advice on how to navigate probation etc and has not been looking at the clock for billing.Although I wish I had never been arrested in the first place, I am glad I had Todd and his team in my corner. Without them I likely would have had to spend a lot more time in prison than I did.Thank you, Todd, and the entire Spodek Law team, for helping turn what was a nightmare into a manageable situation!
Yelva Saint-PreuxYelva Saint-Preux
19:26 19 Apr 24
I am immensely grateful to the entire team at Spodek Law Group for their unwavering dedication and exceptional expertise throughout my case. From our initial consultation to the final resolution, their professionalism and tireless advocacy made all the difference. Their strategic approach and attention to detail instilled confidence in me every step of the way.Thanks to their hard work and commitment, we achieved a truly favorable outcome that exceeded my expectations. Not only did they navigate the complexities of my case with precision, but they also provided invaluable support and guidance during what was undoubtedly a challenging time. I cannot recommend Spodek Law Group highly enough, especially attorneys Todd Spodek and Claire Banks; they are beacons of excellence in the legal profession.YSP.
Katherine SunKatherine Sun
18:08 18 Apr 24
my lawyer is Alex Zhik. Efficient, patient and professional
Nun yaNun ya
17:48 18 Apr 24
Todd, Ralph and Alex are amazing. Helped my husband get from a double digit number with multiple charges to a single digit, by the time I blink he will be out. They very professional and help with all your needs. They dealt with my anxiety and worry very well and they understand that your family member needs to get home as soon as possible.
Keisha ParrisKeisha Parris
20:45 15 Mar 24
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko BeautyTaïko Beauty
16:26 15 Mar 24
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence.Thank you team!
K MarK Mar
01:37 25 Jan 24
I recently had Spodek Law Group represent me for a legal matter in NYC and I am thoroughly impressed with their services.Alex Zhik secured the best possible outcome for my case.It was a seamless journey from the initial consultation to the resolution of my legal matter. From the moment I spoke to Todd about my case, his enthusiasm to help was evident, setting a positive tone for the entire experience. The efficiency and professionalism displayed by the team is commendable.A particularly noteworthy aspect of their service is their user-friendly portal to upload your documents/evidence. This not only simplified the process, but showcases their commitment to streamline the client experience.Lastly, in an industry where legal fees can often be a concern, I found their pricing to be very reasonable, making needing legal assistance feel accessible and stress-free.I am grateful for their support and wouldn't hesitate to turn to them again in the future.

Affirmative Asylum

  • You are not in any removal proceedings
  • You File Form I-589 with USCIS

Defensive Asylum

  • You are in removal proceedings
  • You are requesting asylum as a defense against deportation infront an immigration judge

Asylum Processing Rule

  • This is done if you show fear of persecution after entering from the border
  • Credible fear interview is done
  • Asylum Merits Interview with asylum officer (21-45 days after credible fear determination)
  • If denied, case referred to immigration judge

Regardless of which process you go through, you have to be physically present in the U.S. to apply for Asylum.

Building Your Asylum Case

The burden of proof rests on you – you have to be able to provide evidence of past persecution in your original country, or show a fear of harm if you return to your country. The testimony you give is critical, but in addition – you will need supporting documentation to support your claim:

  • Police/medical reports
  • Witness statements
  • News articles
  • Documentation of human rights violations
  • Proof of political activities/affiliations

Gather every piece of evidence available. If documents are not in English, ensure certified translations are available.

The One-Year Filing Deadline

Generally, you have to file file for affirmative, or defensive asylum, within one year arriving in New York.

Exceptions can apply if:

  • There are changed circumstances materially affecting your eligibility
  • There were extraordinary circumstances relating to your delay
  • You entered as an unaccompanied minor

Failure to file within the one-year window can result in a denial, or referral, to an immigration judge for defensive asylum processing – which increases the risk of removal.

Affirmative Asylum: The Process

If you are not in removal proceedings, you can proactively file for affirmative asylum:

  1. File Form I-589 – Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal
  2. Receive a Notice for Fingerprint Appointment
  3. Attend Biometrics Appointment
  4. Receive Interview Notice
  5. Prepare for Interview – Gather evidence, witnesses, attorney representation
  6. Attend Interview at Asylum Office
  7. Receive Decision by Mail

This process takes months – even years. Legally present or not, you cannot be deported while your asylum case is pending. This is your defense.

Defensive Asylum: Courtroom Battles

If you are already in immigration removal proceedings with an immigration judge, you can request defensive asylum as a means to remain in the U.S.

This process includes:

  1. File Form I-589 with Immigration Court
  2. Submit Biometrics
  3. Attorney Preparation – Gather evidence, witnesses, legal arguments
  4. Individual Merits Hearing before Immigration Judge
  5. Receive Oral Decision or Written Decision by Mail

Unlike affirmative asylum, the defensive process happens on very quick – often it can happen in weeks. Having an experienced immigration attorney is very important to navigate this complicated process.

Employment Authorization

You cannot apply for a work permit while at the same time applying for asylum. If no decision has been made on your asylum case after 150 days, you can file Form I-765 to request employment authorization. Once you are granted asylum, you can almost immediately work, get a Social Security card, get certain public benefits, petition for family reunification, and eventually apply for permanent residency.

Overcoming Obstacles

Asylum cases are rarely straightforward. Be prepared for:

Delays and Backlogs – It’s not uncommon to wait over two years for an asylum decision.

Requests for Additional Evidence – Expect requests for more documentation to prove your claim.

Referrals to Immigration Court – Affirmative asylum cases can be referred to defensive proceedings if the asylum officer has doubts.

Denials and Appeals – If asylum is denied, you have options to appeal and fight removal.

The key? Patience, preparation, and an unwavering commitment to your case.

Your Rights as an Asylum Seeker

As you navigate the asylum process, know your rights:

  • You have a right to legal representation (at no expense to the government)
  • You have the right to freedom from discrimination based on race, religion, nationality, etc.
  • You have protection from unlawful deportation while your case is pending
  • You have the ability to request a competent interpreter
  • Confidentiality regarding your immigration status

Understand and assert these rights – they exist to safeguard your due process!

Hypothetical Scenarios

Throughout this process, you will face many hypothetical scenarios that test your soul:

It could be that your initial asylum application is denied. In this situation, it’s importantto  explore all available legal options, such as appealing the decision or requesting a review from an immigration judge.

Perhaps the evidence you’ve provided is not sufficient. If this occurs, your immigration attorney can help you gather additional documentation or witness testimonies to bolster your claim, the goal is to make sure that your case is presented in the most compelling manner possible.

There’s a chance that your case could be delayed due to backlogs or administrative issues.

While this is frustrating, it’s crucial to have patience and continue cooperating with the authorities; rushing this process can potentially jeopardize your chances of success.It’s possible that you may face discrimination or mistreatment during the asylum process. If this happens, it’s vital to document any discriminatory incidents and report them to your lawyer immediately, as such actions violate your rights as an asylum seeker.

Asylum in New York: FAQs

Who is eligible for asylum?

To be eligible for asylum, you have to meet the international definition of a “refugee” – meaning someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their home country due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

What are the different ways to apply for asylum in the U.S.?

The three primary paths are:

  1. Affirmative Asylum – File Form I-589 with USCIS if you are not in removal proceedings.
  2. Defensive Asylum – Request asylum before an immigration judge as a defense against removal proceedings.
  3. Asylum Processing Rule – For recent arrivals from the border expressing fear of persecution. Involves a credible fear interview and Asylum Merits Interview.

Is there a deadline to apply for asylum?

Generally, you should file for affirmative or defensive asylum within one year of your last arrival in the United States. Some exceptions to this rule can apply for changed or extraordinary circumstances.

Can I work while my asylum case is pending?

You cannot apply for a work permit at the same time as your asylum application. However, if no decision has been made after 150 days, you can file Form I-765 to request employment authorization.

What evidence do I need for my asylum case?

Gather any documentation that supports your claim of past persecution or fear of future harm, such as:

  • Police/medical reports
  • Witness statements
  • News articles
  • Proof of human rights violations
  • Evidence of political activities/affiliations

Your personal testimony is also critical evidence.

Can I bring my family if granted asylum?

Yes, you may petition to bring your spouse and unmarried children under 21 to the U.S. by filing Form I-730 within two years of being granted asylum.

What are my rights as an asylum seeker?

You have the right to legal representation, protection from discrimination, freedom from unlawful deportation while your case is pending, access to competent interpreters, and confidentiality regarding your immigration status.

Where can I find support services in New York?

New York offers legal aid from advocacy groups and law clinics, social services from resettlement agencies, and community support through cultural organizations, faith-based initiatives, and mutual aid networks.

At a Glance: The Asylum Process in New York

Stage Affirmative Process Defensive Process
Application File Form I-589 with USCIS File Form I-589 with Immigration Court
Biometrics Attend fingerprint appointment Submit biometrics
Evidence Gathering Compile documentation, witness statements Attorney prepares evidence and legal arguments
Interview/Hearing Non-adversarial interview at asylum office Adversarial individual merits hearing before judge
Decision Receive decision by mail Receive oral or written decision
Typical Timeline Months to years Weeks to months
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