All You Need To Know About Form I-589: Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal

In a Nutshell

If you want to apply for asylum in the United States, you must submit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-589 within one year of arriving in the United States. You’ll also need to submit documents to support your application. This article will help you understand how to fill out form I-589 and what supporting documentation you’ll need to provide. It will also cover some tips to help ensure your application has the best chance of success.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Updated November 1, 2022

What Is Form I-589? 

If you are a noncitizen currently in the United States, you can apply for asylum with Form I-589. Asylum is an immigration status that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can grant to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted in their home country because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and/or membership in a particular social group. If USCIS grants you asylum, you can remain in the United States and work here with employment authorization. 

Asylum seekers must file Form I-589 within one year of arrival in the United States. If you do not file this form within one year, you may be ineligible to apply for asylum under immigration law. If you entered the United States illegally or you overstayed a visa, you could face deportation or arrest from immigration authorities. 

How To Fill Out Form I-589

Form I-589 is ten pages long, with a two-page supplement. It has seven parts in total. It is essential to provide accurate information consistent with any previous immigration applications. If USCIS determines that you were dishonest, you may be permanently inadmissible to the United States. The following sections explain how to complete the different parts of Form I-589.

Part A: Information About You, Your Spouse and Children, and Your Background

Part A has three subsections: Part A.I, Part A.II, and Part A.III. 

Part A.I

In Part A.I, you will provide information about yourself for your asylum claim. This information includes your full name, mailing address, date of birth, home country, contact information, Social Security number, and marital status. 

Question 1 asks for your alien registration number or “A-number.” This number is an eight- or nine-digit number you likely have if you have submitted previous applications to USCIS or faced deportation proceedings. 

For Question 18, you will also share if you previously faced immigration court proceedings. Proceedings include appearing before an immigration judge or facing arrest by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or immigration officers. If you have, you may be unable to file Form I-589 except through the immigration court.

For Question 19, you will need to share your entries into the United States and visa status. Even if you entered without inspection or overstayed your visa, you must be honest. However, most immigration violations will not affect your asylum case if you did so to escape persecution. You can find your Form I-94 travel record on the Customs and Border Protection website.  

Part A.II 

In this section, you will provide information about your spouse and children. USCIS wants to know whether they should grant asylum to your family members. 

For the section on your spouse, question 24 asks if you want to include your spouse on your application. If you include your spouse and USCIS grants you asylum, your spouse will also receive asylum. However, if USCIS refers your case to immigration court, your spouse could also face removal proceedings and deportation with you. If your spouse doesn’t want to risk this, you can indicate “no." They can file Form I-730 to get status after you receive asylum. 

For the section on your children, you should answer Questions 1-21 for each child, even if they are adults. If you have more than four children, you must attach “Supplement A, Form I-589.” Like for your spouse, you can choose if you want to include them on your asylum application. 

Part A.III 

In Part A.III, you will provide information about your background. You will share your last address, previous residences, education and employment, and information about your parents and siblings. 

Part B: Information About Your Application

In Part B, you will answer questions determining your asylum eligibility. It is crucial to be specific. To make your application credible, you should provide as many details as possible, including dates, names, and locations. You should use Supplement B or additional sheets of paper if you need more space to explain your case further. You can also provide documentation as evidence of your claims. It is better to provide more detail than less. 

In Question 1, you will explain the basis of your asylum claim. You need to check at least one of the first five boxes to be eligible, and you can indicate multiple boxes if they apply. If you also are applying for Withholding of Removal under the Convention Against Torture, check “Torture Convention.”

In Question 1.A., you should explain any harms, mistreatments, or threats relevant to your basis of asylum and the country you fled. If you can include damages or threats caused by government actors and evidence, this will strengthen your application. If you faced harm or threats from non-government actors, explain that the government was unwilling or unable to protect you from these events. If possible, try to have any family members or friends you name provide affidavits or sworn statements to support your claims. 

In Question 1.B., you need to explain if you fear harm or mistreatment if you return to your home country. You must check “yes” and explain to be eligible for asylum. 

Questions 2-4

In Question 2, USCIS wants to learn about your criminal history outside of the United States. However, you can also use this to explain why you or your family faced false accusations, detentions, interrogations, or imprisonment as it relates to your asylum claim. These cases can qualify as “persecution.” If this applies to you, provide records of your arrest, court proceedings, or imprisonment and why you believe you were targeted. However, if your arrests or prosecutions are irrelevant to your asylum claim, you should speak to an immigration attorney. Serious crimes that are irrelevant to your claim can prevent you from getting asylum. 

In Question 3.A., you will explain your membership in any organization or group. USCIS wants to determine if you are a part of a group that has persecuted others or involved itself in terrorism. Membership could bar you from receiving asylum. If so, you should talk to an attorney. However, you can also show you participated in activist, media-related, political, or religious activities. If the government or other actors targeted these organizations, explain your role in the group and any leadership positions you held. 

In Question 3.B., you should explain and provide evidence as to whether you and your family members are still part of these groups. Remaining a member can indicate your dedication to the organization and show how you cannot simply leave the organization to avoid persecution. It can improve your asylum case. 

In Question 4, you will explain if you fear torture upon returning. Do not answer “yes” unless you genuinely fear torture. However, if you are applying under the Convention Against Torture, you need to indicate “yes” and explain to qualify.  

Part C: Additional Information About Your Application

In Part C, the yes or no questions will indicate if you have done anything that could hurt your chances for asylum. You will need to explain if you answer “yes” to any of the questions. 

For Question 1, you will indicate if you previously requested asylum and faced denial from USCIS, an immigration judge, or the Board of Immigration Appeals. If you had any change in circumstances that affected your eligibility or if your family members with a similar case successfully received asylum, it could improve your case. However, if USCIS denied your claim due to criminal history, your outcome will likely not change.

For Questions 2.A. and 2.B., you will provide information about previous travel and residence abroad. USCIS wants to know whether you could return to a third country that is not the United States or your home country and not face persecution there. If relevant, you need to explain why you didn’t apply for asylum there. If you did apply for asylum, you would need to present your case outcome. You will likely have to answer questions about this in your asylum interview with an asylum officer. If another country offered you the opportunity to become a permanent resident, but you refused without a valid reason, you will not be eligible for U.S. asylum. 

Questions 3-6

In Question 3, if you were involved in persecuting others, you would be ineligible for asylum. If you answer “yes,” you need to explain why you participated. For example, if relevant, you could clarify that others forced you to join. You should provide evidence for these claims, such as articles from humanitarian groups that verify this information. 

In Question 4, you will explain if you left your home country and later returned. You will need to explain how circumstances changed since you returned or about extenuating events that required you to return, such as a severe illness from a family member. If you are not convincing enough, USCIS may decide you don’t genuinely fear returning. 

In Question 5, if you are not applying within one year of arriving in the United States or one year of your legal status expiring, you will need to explain what “extraordinary circumstances” delayed your filing. These could include illness or changing circumstances in your home country. You should consult an attorney if you are applying after the one-year deadline. 

In Question 6, you will explain if you or your family have faced arrest or conviction for a crime in the United States. If relevant, you should consult an immigration attorney. 

Part D Through Part G

In Part D, if applicable, you will print your name in English and your native language. You would indicate if a spouse, parent, or child helped with your form. 

In Part E, you will declare if an attorney, nonprofit employee, or other accredited representative helped you prepare the form. 

Do not fill in Part F and Part G. Part F will be completed at your asylum interview, if applicable. Part G will also be completed, if applicable, at your removal hearings when you appear before an immigration judge of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). 

Supporting Documents & Evidence To Submit With Your Asylum Application

In addition to your form, you will need to provide supporting documents. You should attach two passport photos to your application on page 9. Write your full name and A-number in pencil on the back of the images. If you don’t have an A-number, write “A# None.” 

If you are including family members in your asylum application, you should follow these steps for them too. You should make a copy of your application, attach two passport photos of your family member, and write their full name and A-number. Again, if they do not have an A-number, indicate “A# None.” 

Document List

You should also include copies of these documents: 

  • Your birth certificate

  • Your marriage certificate, if relevant

  • Your passport or travel document (every page, including front and back covers) 

  • Your I-94, if you arrived in the United States with a visa, through the visa waiver program, or if you received parole

    • If you arrived after May 2013, this information is online, and if you arrived before May 2013, you should have a piece of paper stapled to your passport 

If you include your spouse on your application, you should include this information: 

  • Your spouse’s birth certificate

  • Your spouse’s passport or travel document (all pages) 

  • Your spouse’s I-94, if applicable

  • Your marriage certificate proving your marriage 

  • Proof of termination of any prior marriages (such as a divorce judgment) for you and your spouse 

If you are including your child on your application, you should also include this information: 

  • Your child’s birth certificate

  • Your child’s passport (all pages)

  • Your child’s I-94, if applicable 

If you or a family member on your application faced arrest or conviction in the United States, you need to submit records of this violation. If you don’t have documents, you should explain you will look for them and provide them in the future. If your documents are not in English, you need to include a certified translation

Other Documentation

You need to make copies of this entire application package. If you apply with USCIS, you need one original, one copy, one additional copy for each family member included, and one copy to keep for your records. If you apply through immigration court, you need one original for the judge, one copy for the government attorney, and one copy for your records. 

You must also submit additional evidence that verifies the general conditions of the country for which you seek asylum and the facts of your specific claims. If this information is unavailable or you are not submitting it yet, you should explain why in Supplement B. This information is crucial to proving your case and validating your claim. This additional evidence could include: 

  • Newspaper articles

  • Affidavits of witnesses or experts

  • Medical or psychological records

  • Doctors’ statements

  • Journals

  • Photographs 

  • Official documents

  • Books 

  • Personal statements 

How To File Your Completed Form I-589

Filing your completed form depends on whether you’re filing through USCIS or facing removal proceedings in immigration court. 

If you are filing through USCIS, you must mail your application package to the correct address or P.O. box, depending on where you live. For example, if you live in Arizona or Vermont, you will mail your package to the California Service Center. However, if you live in certain Nevada counties, you’ll send your package to the Nebraska Service Center. If you are from the U.S. Virgin Islands, you will mail it to the Texas Service Center. This system can be confusing, so look up where to send your package on USCIS’s official site under “Where to File.” 

Filing While Facing Removal Proceedings

If your case is currently in immigration court, you will submit your application to the court and the government attorney. You have three different options. First, you could submit your package in person during your hearing. You would give the original and copies to the judge, who will stamp them. The judge will keep the original, and you will then give one copy to the attorney and keep one copy. 

Second, you could submit your package in person at the filing window in immigration court. You will need to prepare a certificate of service or proof you gave your package to the attorney. You will bring all these documents, including the certificate, to the court. The clerk will stamp these documents and keep the original copy and the certificate of service. You should keep one copy for yourself and deliver one stamped copy to the government attorney. You can mail it to them or provide it to their office. Usually, their office will be in the same building as the immigration court. You can find their address online here

Finally, you can mail your application to both the court and the government attorney. Again you will need a certificate of service. You should use a mail service that offers tracking. First, you will mail the original copy and the certificate to the immigration court address. Then, you should ship a copy to the government attorney’s address. Keep the final copy for yourself. After submitting your application to the court, keep in mind that you will also need to send other documents to USCIS to schedule a biometrics appointment. 

Form I-589 Filing Fee and Processing Time

There is currently no fee to file Form I-589. You should receive a decision on your application within 180 days of the date you filed your application unless you have exceptional circumstances. If you don’t complete the form correctly, you could face processing delays.

Tips for Filling Out Form I-589

To avoid delays in processing, follow these tips: 

  • Make sure to apply within the one-year deadline, or you could face arrest from immigration authorities. 

  • Be honest always. If you lie, you could become permanently inadmissible to the United States. If USCIS finds that you knowingly were dishonest, you may be ineligible for any immigration benefits in the future. 

  • Be consistent with previous applications or explain any discrepancies and provide evidence of the truth. 

  • If you can’t remember specific dates, enter your best guess and try to provide evidence for it. 

  • Use extra pages if you need more space. You should do this through “Supplement B, Form I-589.” You can make additional copies of this page and attach them. 

  • Don’t forget to sign your form in Part D, as USCIS will reject unsigned forms. 

  • Use the most recent form version by checking the USCIS site

  • USCIS prefers that you complete the form electronically and then print them out. However, if you handwrite, use black ink and print legibly. 

  • If you make an error, you should start over with a new form. 

  • Do not use highlighters or correction fluid. The scanners cannot correctly read information this way. 

  • If you file multiple forms, write your name, date of birth, and A-number, if applicable, the same way on each form. 

  • Submit single-sided copies of your application.