New Immigration Act Places Tighter Restrictions on the Asylum Process

Formerly, filing an application for asylum in the United States was a simple process. The new Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 makes significant changes to the asylum application process of which all aliens need to be aware.

All prospective asylum applicants need to know that, beginning April 1, 1997, any alien found to have filed a frivolous application for asylum is permanently barred from receiving ANY immigration benefits. This does not apply simply if the application is just denied. This permanent bar from any immigration benefits applies only if it is determined that the asylum application contains no merit whatsoever. This shall apply only to applications filed after April 1, 1997.

Next, in order for the application to even be initially considered, several new burdens must be met by the applicant. First, unless the Attorney General determines that accepting the alien would be in the public interest, the applicant must not have any other country in which he or she would be safe from persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion.

Second, the application for asylum must be filed within one year from the date the alien arrived or entered into the United States. This time limit includes any time during which the alien is legally admitted in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa.

Third, anyone who has previously filed an asylum application that was later denied may not file another one. The only exceptions to the time limit and the previous application rules is when circumstances which would materially change the applicant’s eligibility for asylum have taken place or extraordinary circumstances exist which explain the delay in filing the application.

After the application has been filed, the asylum interview must take place within 45 days and the final administrative adjudication must take place within 180 days. Work authorization may only be granted 180 days after the application for asylum has been filed. Therefore, typically, the applicant will have received a decision on his or her even before work authorization is even available to the applicant.

Remember that these new changes will require much more expertise than might have been required in the past. Please consult an experienced attorney before making a move that may jeopardize your future in the United States.