Once the service center receives a completed application packet, it will send the asylum-seeker a receipt notice. After the receipt notice, applicants are sent a biometrics notice instructing them to have their fingerprints taken at the nearest Application Support Center. From these fingerprints, the FBI will conduct a background check, which must be completed before the interview. Once the applicant gives prints and passes a background investigation, he or she will be sent an interview notice giving the time and place of the asylum interview. At the interview, an asylum officer will review and question the applicant to make sure he or she has a credible fear of returning to the country of origin due to past persecution. The applicant could be granted asylum here. If the officer denies the case, the applicant is referred to the immigration court to have his or her case heard by an immigration judge.
There are two types of asylum applications: affirmative and defensive. The purpose of both applications is to seek relief from removal or deportation from the United States. Both types of asylum applicants must show they have a credible fear of returning to their country of origin due to past persecution based on one of five protected grounds including race, religion, national origin, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
Affirmative asylum is when a person applies for asylum with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Applicant must be physically present in the United States to apply, but does not have to be documented. However, if their application is denied, their lack of legal immigration status may cause them to be placed in removal proceedings and threatened with deportation. Again, applicant must file for asylum within one year from the date of their arrival in the United States unless they can demonstrate changed or extraordinary circumstances existed that delayed their application’s submission.
Defensive asylum occurs when an immigrant requests asylum as a defense against removal proceedings. This request for asylum can be made in several different situations, including: (1) when an undocumented immigrant is arrested and placed in removal proceedings; (2) when an immigrant in violation of their immigrant status is arrested and placed in removal proceedings; (3) if an undocumented immigrant’s application for asylum is presented as a defense to removal in circumstances other then immigration arrest; and (4) when an immigrant is caught at a port of entry without proper documentation. If that person raises a claim for asylum or indicates a fear of removal when caught, he or she will be interviewed by an asylum officer first to determine whether he or she has a credible fear of persecution and then placed removal proceedings.
The USCIS Service Centers were established to process the mail, file, data entry, and adjudication of most applications for immigration services and benefits. The applications and petitions processed by each Center are listed on its home page. Below are the 4 Service Centers and the jurisdictions they cover. Click on the following links to be directed to the corresponding Service Center: