Seeking Legal Assistance for Filing Your LGBTQ Asylum Application
Finding and working with an immigration lawyer, for most applicants, is absolutely crucial for receiving asylum in the U.S.
Generally, affirmative asylum seekers have one year from their last date of entry in the United States to file an application for asylum with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unless they qualify for a legally recognized exemption. (For more on these exemptions, please visit the USCIS website).
As soon as you are able, you should contact an immigration attorney in the United States who will be able to help you with your individual case. Do not rely on the advice of friends or family members who have applied for asylum as everyone’s experience will be different. An attorney will be able to file the strongest possible application for you and will prevent delays in the process.
Unlike in U.S. criminal law, the immigration court will not appoint an attorney to you, even if you are a child. However, there are many free (“pro-bono”) immigration lawyers who can help. Many are connected to or work directly for nonprofit organizations.
You should seek help from an immigration attorney as soon as you can. Remember that these lawyers are not part of USCIS, the United Nations, or any government agency. You should consider seeking their help before reaching out to any government agency as they will know how to present your application in the most compelling way possible.
Tips for Working with Your Asylum Attorney
Find a LGBTQ Friendly Asylum Attorney
First and foremost, you should find an attorney who makes you feel comfortable and who understands the complexity of filing an asylum application based on persecution against an LGBTQ applicant. There are many attorneys who will be familiar with what it takes to file a strong application for you and who regularly work with clients filing for affirmative LGBTQ asylum. Read reviews of each attorney and ask questions. The AsylumConnect resource catalog can also help you find LGBTQ-friendly attorneys near you.
There are many low cost or pro-bono asylum attorneys out there. Make sure you are not being overcharged! Don’t worry about speaking to several different attorneys before you decide on one but be sure to ask about any “consultation” fees or upfront costs before your first meeting.
Know the Scope of Representation
Make sure you know what service(s) your attorney is providing. There are multiple steps to an asylum application. Seek an attorney who will be available to you every step of the way. Make sure you have an agreement in writing outlining what your attorney will and will not be doing for you.
Ask for Copies of Everything
Your attorney will likely keep copies of anything that they file on your behalf. You should also have copies of everything that they send to USCIS in case you decide to work with a different attorney in the future or if you eventually apply to become a permanent resident or U.S. citizen.
The process of applying for asylum can be intimidating but don’t be afraid to ask your attorney any questions you may have. It’s important that you understand what’s going on and that’s what they’re there for. You can also bring an interpreter to your meetings if you feel more comfortable.
Once you and your attorney enter into an “attorney-client relationship”, your attorney is bound by confidentiality. With some very narrow exceptions, your attorney cannot tell anyone what you’ve confided in them without your permission. You should feel comfortable telling your attorney everything. Details like your past arrests, marriages, time in jail, and any past legal or illegal presence in the United States MUST be disclosed to your attorney so that they can advise you to the best of their ability. Note that bringing anyone else to your meetings may wave your confidentiality.
Cover Every Detail
Part of making a strong LGBTQ asylum claim is telling your personal story. Understandably, most people find it difficult to disclose intimate and often painful details of their lives to their attorney, whom they’ve just met. Rest assured that your conversations with your attorney are confidential and they will only use this information to build your best possible case for asylum. Don’t skip details, even if you think they are unimportant. Your attorney is the best judge for what should be included in your asylum application and what should not. Be thorough!
To find LGBTQ-friendly free (or low cost) immigration attorneys and nonprofit organizations near you, visit the AsylumConnect resource catalog!
Disclaimer: The contents herein are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice. The contents should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for legal advice. The information presented may not reflect the most current legal developments. No action should be taken in reliance on the information presented and AsylumConnect disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken in reliance on the contents herein. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.