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Applying for Asylum on Behalf of Unaccompanied Minors

Photograph of an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum.

Asylum application procedures are in place for people fleeing violence, persecution, or human rights violations. The steps are straightforward for adult asylum-seekers. However, the same can not be said for minors, especially those who are not accompanied by an adult.

Immigration law has a separate asylum application process for unaccompanied minors. Minors can apply for asylum themselves, but adults can also apply for asylum on behalf of an unaccompanied minor.

Read on to learn more about the asylum application process for unaccompanied minors.

The Key to Eligibility: Being an Unaccompanied Minor

The asylum application procedure depends on whether or not a minor is deemed unaccompanied. Immigration law defines an unaccompanied minor as an individual under 18 who arrived at the border without parents or guardians. The United Nations further specifies what it means to be unaccompanied.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, unaccompanied minors are individuals under 18 who arrived at the border after being separated from their parents. Minor asylum-seekers with parents may also fall under the classification of “unaccompanied” if they arrive at the border with parents who neglect them.

The Asylum Application Process for Unaccompanied Minors

Asylum application for unaccompanied minors is a three-step process:

1. Qualifying as Unaccompanied

Officers at the border will interview the minor. If the minor asylum-seeker meets the necessary criteria, immigration officers will classify the minor as unaccompanied.

2. Applying for Guardianship

Immigration officers will then assign a sponsor to the unaccompanied minor. Adults who are accompanying an unrelated minor can apply to be the minor’s guardian at the border or with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The minor’s guardian will be responsible for caring for the minor and acting as the minor’s representative during immigration case hearings.

3. Applying for Asylum Status on Behalf of a Minor

To apply for asylum status on behalf of a minor, you must apply with the USCIS by filling out the USCIS Asylum Application form, also known as Form I-589.

Once you have filled out the form, you will see a section that says “where to file.” Here, you will find further instructions on where to submit the form.

Because of the ward’s status, adults do not need to apply for asylum on behalf of the minor within the first year of staying in the country. The adult can still file even after they and the minor have spent one year in the United States.

What to Expect

Here are a few things to prepare yourself for if you are applying for asylum on behalf of a minor:

An Asylum Interview Within 21 Days of Your Application

The time may be shorter or longer. Nevertheless, expect the USCIS to get in touch with you for your ward’s asylum interview within 21 days after you have applied. You will receive a notice called the Notice to Appear that will contain the time, date, and place of the interview with a USCIS asylum officer (AO).

During the interview, it’s important to bring documents confirming your identity and the identity of the minor. Bring original documents whenever possible. Most importantly, ensure that these documents come with English translations.

A Long Wait

The USCIS processes tens of thousands of asylum applications per year. The sheer number of applications can delay the resolution of the asylum application for years. You can expect other factors, like changes to immigration law, to further delay your application.

A Spot in the Minor’s Immigration Court Hearings

Several immigration court hearings will happen before the courts approve the minor’s asylum application. As the minor’s guardian, you must be present at most — if not all — of these hearings.

You will also be the person with whom the courts and the USCIS communicate. The only exceptions would be when the minor’s presence is requested.

Be Informed, Be Guided, and Be Represented in Your Immigration Case

The asylum application process can be lengthy and complex. As the USCIS processes thousands of applications, you must be ready for delays. Delays are always undesirable, but you can view them as an opportunity to find legal representation for your immigration case.

With offices in Baltimore, Columbia, Towson, Northern Virginia, Westminster, and Dundalk, we’re here to help you with any questions you may have. Contact us, or call our experts at Albers & Associates at (443) 543-8517 if you need legal counsel and representation for your asylum application case.

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