Imagine the feeling you have when you wake up each morning, the excitement of a new day, the familiarity and comfort of your own home and the feeling of being well rested from a good night’s sleep. You get out of bed and stretch your body as you smell the brewing coffee being made it the kitchen. You look out your window and watch large trees that sit in your perfectly groomed yard sway back and forth while you listen to the beautiful sound of the birds. You don’t fear what the day might bring because the experience of safety, security and comfort you have for you and your family is a positive one.

Now imagine living in a country where the consistent sounds of gunshots and bombs outside your window is what gets you out of bed each day. Or to look out your window only to see the dangerous gangs of your city waiting just outside your front door to harass you and to recruit your only son. Imagine taking a step outside of your door to find yourself on the front lines because you live in the border town of two neighboring countries at war. Imagine the type of fear you would experience at this moment, a fear so great that it defeats any sort of comfort you may have once had and it’s so powerful it scares you to your very core. It’s a fear that deters you from leaving your house because you know the reality of being tortured, imprisoned or even killed can occur at any given moment. Imagine that this type of violence and corruption has gone on for far too long that you can’t even distinguish right from wrong or good from bad. How can anyone be asked to live like this?

There are so many people around the world who share these same experiences in their lives because they live in a country with immoral governments or with active rebel groups that the government is unable to control. These people fear persecution will be inflicted directly from their government or the rebels due to their race, religion, nationality, political views or membership of a particular social group. There is no or very little assistance and security provided to them by their own country, therefore they attempt to seek asylum in another country.

Asylum is the protection provided by another country, granted by a nation to a person who has left their own country as a refugee.  Like any application process, applying for asylum in the United States can be a lengthy and grueling one. Immigrants can apply for asylum in the United States on the basis and proof that they are fleeing persecution or torture in their country of origin. This will allow them to remain lawfully in the United States, indefinitely. Once the decision of applying for asylum is made, it is highly recommended to consult with an attorney. Otherwise, it is recommended that each document is copied for the applicant’s records and that the application is sent by certified mail for additional documentation and proof.

The asylum application process consists of many forms and official documents. The first is the immigration form I-589 which is about 12 pages in length. It is also required that the applicant provides a declaration, verifying documents such as medical reports, police reports and letters from witnesses (for proof of the applicant’s story). They must also provide their country conditions documentation which demonstrates how the government treats certain people of particular social groups within the country.

Once the application has been filed, the applicant waits. Unfortunately the timeline of an application is unpredictable, some applicants may wait months or sometimes years to have their asylum interview scheduled. Once the interview is scheduled, the applicant will have the opportunity to explain their past experiences and what they fear may happen to them if they must return home.

Approximately two weeks after the interview process, the applicant will typically return in person to pick up the decision. The decision made will be one of four, they could choose to grant asylum, recommend asylum approval, refer the case to immigration court or provide a notice of intent to deny a case. If an applicant is issued a “Noticed of Intent to Deny” they are allowed to submit further documentation and evidence to the asylum office for an opportunity to change their decision. However, they do not have legal rights to ask a judge or court to review the original decision. Changes to the original decision by this appeal are typically unsuccessful and in most cases, the applicants are required to leave the country when their authorized visas end. This only applies if the applicant is in an approved immigration status, such as tourist, student or work visa. If they are not in this status, the process for appeal becomes much more complicated. Fortunately people who are granted asylum may apply for permanent residence one year after being granted asylum.

One important thing for applicants to remember is to meet all deadlines. Immigrants who are applying for asylum must file within one year of their last arrival in the United States. If this deadline is not met, the application will be denied.