Tibet Justice Center
advocates self-determintion for the Tibetan people. Through
legal action and education, Tibet Justice Center promotes
human rights, environmental protection, and peaceful resolution
of the situation in Tibet. A non-profit membership group,
Tibet Justice Center is supported by attorneys, other concerned
individuals, and organizations.
For more information or assistance please contact:
Chenee Fournier at
Tibet Justice Center
Who qualifies for asylum?
Under the current law of the United States, a person may qualify
for asylum within the United States if that person can demonstrate
to U.S. immigration that he or she has been persecuted or can
show a “credible fear” of future persecution because
of his or her political opinion, race, nationality, religion,
or membership in a social group. If the applicant spent a significant
amount of time in another country before coming to the United
States, he or she may also be required to show that he or she
has not been “firmly resettled” in that country.
These questions are decided for each individual case.
Can I apply for asylum once I arrive in the United States?
An asylum application must be filed after the applicant has
arrived in the United States, but no later than one year after
the date of arrival. If a person seeking asylum fails to file
within one year of the date of arrival, it becomes much more
difficult to obtain asylum. The date of arrival generally is
the date stamped in a passport or other travel document by U.S.
immigration. An application for asylum and supporting documents
usually are filed with the Asylum Office of the Immigration
and Naturalization Service (INS) for the geographic area of
the United States in which the applicant is living.
After the application is filed, the applicant will be called
for an interview with an asylum officer. The asylum officer
has the authority to grant or deny the asylum application. If
the officer denies the application, the applicant may appeal
the officer’s decision to an immigration judge, who will
then decide if the applicant is entitled to asylum. If the immigration
judge denies the asylum application, the applicant may then
appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). If the BIA
denies the application, the applicant may still have the right
to file an appeal in federal court. The asylum application process
can take between two months and two years, depending on the
circumstances of the individual case.
Sometimes, a person seeking asylum may be taken into custody
immediately upon arrival in the United States. If that occurs,
the person taken into custody may assert that he or she would
like to apply for asylum. An immigration officer would then
interview the applicant to see if he or she has a credible fear
of persecution. A “credible fear” in this context
means that there is a significant possibility, based on the
credibility of the statements made by the applicant and other
facts known to the immigration officer, that the applicant could
establish eligibility for asylum under U.S. immigration law.
If the officer determines that the applicant has a credible
fear, the applicant is allowed to stay in the United States
while he or she applies for asylum. If the officer determines
that the applicant has not shown a credible fear, the INS orders
the applicant removed from the United States. However, the applicant
may request review of the officer’s decision. Once the
applicant requests review, the matter is referred to immigration
court, where a judge will review the officer’s decision.
During this process, the applicant will be kept in custody pending
a final determination of whether they have established a credible
fear of persecution.
Whatever process an asylum applicant goes through, the applicant
should keep a few things in mind. First, the applicant should
always tells the truth to U.S. immigration officials. For example,
entering the United States by using a false passport will not
bar an applicant from obtaining asylum, however, misrepresenting
facts to immigration officials can seriously jeopardize an asylum
claim. Also, an asylum applicant should not engage in any criminal
activity within the United States. Finally, the applicant should
remain in the United States while his or her asylum claim is
pending. If the applicant leaves the country, he or she may
be barred from reentering.
Can I work while I am waiting for my application to be
An asylum applicant is not entitled to work in the United States
unless 150 days have passed since the filing of the application
and the Immigration and Naturalization Service has not yet ruled
on the application. If 150 days have passed since the filing
of the application and the applicant would like to work, the
applicant must request and obtain permission to work from the
Immigration and Naturalization Service before beginning to work.
Can I leave the united states while my asylum application
is being decided?
An asylum applicant should remain in the United States while
his or her asylum claim is pending. If the applicant leaves
the country, he or she may be barred from reentering.
If my asylum application is denied, do I have to leave the
united states? If the asylum application is denied and there
are no appeals left, the applicant must leave the United States.
If the applicant fails to leave the United States voluntarily,
he or she may be subject to deportation. Further, if the applicant
remains in the United States without permission for 180 days
or more, the applicant will be barred from reentry for three
years. If the applicant remains in the United States for one
year or more, he or she will be barred from reentry for ten
Do I need an attorney to file an asylum application?
The asylum process is complicated. Persons seeking to apply
for asylum should attempt to obtain the assistance of an attorney
who will be able to prepare and file the application and supporting
documents, accompany the applicant to the asylum interview,
and prepare and file any necessary appeals. Although many attorneys
charge a fee for these services, if an applicant does not have
any funds to pay for an attorney, it may be possible to locate
pro bono, or free, legal representation. Tibetans seeking legal
assistance or representation may contact Tibet Justice Center,
other Tibet support groups and legal assistance organizations
What documents will I need to file an asylum application?
An applicant for asylum must complete and file an application
on Immigration and Naturalization Service Form I-589. A complete
application should also include certain supporting documents
such as proof of entry into the United States, birth certificate
showing date and place of birth, and identity documents for
the applicant’s immediate family. Documents which may
be necessary for an asylum application include, but are not
- Passport and I-94 card (white immigration card attached
to passport upon legal entry into the United States) -
- Registration Certificate
- Identity Certificate
- Green Book
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificate
- Plane ticket or boarding pass
- Letters regarding your identity or immigration status issued
by governments or nongovernmental organizations
• An asylum applicant should keep the originals
of all documents in his or her possession.
• Only copies should be submitted to the Immigration
and Naturalization Service.
• In addition, the applicant should keep a separate
copy of all documents and a copy of the asylum application.
• The applicant should copy all pages of multi-page
documents such as a passport or green book.
November 2001. This information was prepared by the Tibet
Justice Center as a service to the Tibetan communities in the
United States. It should be used only as an overview of the law
and not as a substitute for legal consultation. Immigration laws
and procedures change frequently and may be applied differently
depending on an applicant’s particular circumstances. For
legal advice concerning a particular situation, consult an attorney.
For further information or assistance, please contact the Tibet