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What is the difference between “AFFIRMATIVE” and “DEFENSIVE” asylum?

You may only apply for asylum if you are arriving in or already physically present in the United States. To apply for asylum in the United States, you may ask for asylum at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport, or border crossing), or, if you are already in the United States, you may file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, at the appropriate Service Center. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status, whether you are here legally or illegally.

You must apply for asylum within one year of your last arrival in the United States, unless you can demonstrate that there are changed circumstances that materially affect your eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances directly related to your failure to file within one year.  You must apply for asylum within a reasonable time given the circumstances.  Changed or extraordinary circumstances may include certain changes in the conditions in your country, changes in your own circumstances, and other events. See more 

The two general paths for getting asylum are generally referred to as AFFIRMATIVE and DEFENSIVE asylum. AFFIRMATIVE asylum-seekers are yet to begin the deportation process in the courts. These individuals would present their case in a non-courtroom setting, such as in an immigration office or before the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). DEFENSIVE asylum-seekers are defending themselves in immigration court. Defensive asylum-seekers will present their case in front of an immigration judge at the Executive Office for Immigration Review, also known as the EOIR.


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