Asylum seekers are in search of protection based on their past, current or future persecution in their home countries. However, their asylum petition may get denied due to an improper or incomplete application, a missed appointment, inconsistencies in their or their witnesses’ stories, or misguidance from their legal representative.

In this post, we describe the more common scenarios pertaining to asylum denial reasons.

Applying for Asylum in the U.S.

Foreign nationals can apply for asylum regardless of how they arrived in the U.S. In general, the stipulations are that individuals seeking asylum must first be physically present in the U.S., and that they must apply for asylum within one year of the date of their most recent arrival

Reasons for Asylum Denial 

Below are some common reasons why asylum applications are denied. Each applicant’s case is different, therefore this is not an exhaustive list.

Ineligibility for Asylum

In order to be eligible for asylum in the U.S., applicants must meet each of the following:

  • Already inside the U.S. or at a port of entry (such as an airport)
  • Substantiated persecution in the past, or fear of future persecution
  • The persecution is from the home country’s government or a group that the government cannot or will not control
  • The persecution is because of the applicant’s protected class, such as race, religion or nationality, or because the applicant’s membership in a particular social group, or their political opinion
  • Must not have willingly or unwillingly assisted terrorists or rebels, in any way
  • Must not have previous resettlement in another country, or previously offered to reside in another country permanently

Asylum seekers previously accused of persecuting others, or who have a criminal background, will have an automatic denial of their case — regardless of the location of the offense.

Simply put, individuals seeking asylum in the U.S. who do not meet all of the above criteria are ineligible for asylum.

You may want to read more about the different types of asylum decisions in the US.

Incomplete Asylum Application

Asylum applications are also denied based on the overall failure to properly complete an Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal (Form I-589). This could be from incomplete answers to insufficient documentary evidence.

Asylum Interview

Overall unpreparedness for an asylum interview leads to an asylum denial. Such as the following:

  • Missing a scheduled asylum appointment with the interviewing officer 
  • Inability to prove eligibility to the the asylum officer 
  • Not providing an interpreter when one is needed
  • Inconsistencies or contradictions between the application and the interview, or between witnesses’ accounts and the applicant’s account of persecution

To avoid a denial during the interview, it is advisable to reread all documentary evidence contained in the asylum packet, ensuring all pages (and copies), dates and statements are consistent throughout. This includes all statements from any witness(es).

Check out our post about the different asylum interview questions you may want to prepare for.

Missing the One-Year Asylum Filing Deadline

In general, there is a filing deadline of one year past the date of entry to the U.S. Otherwise, justification for filing late must be provided in a timely manner. Exceptions for filing after one year may include extraordinary circumstances, such as the following:

  • The applicant was younger than 18 years of age when they arrived in the U.S.
  • He or she has a disability (physical or mental) hindering them you from filing within one year
  • Their circumstances have changed, meaning he or she now has a fear of returning to their home country

Otherwise, not responding to requests from USCIS officers or missing appointments related to the asylum case will unfortunately result in an automatic case denial.

Hiring Unqualified Assistance

Asylum seekers are encouraged to hire an attorney to assist them in their asylum case. This can be done prior to case filing, or after. If an applicant has an unqualified representative, he or she can seek better legal counsel, especially when theirs is unresponsive or unsupportive. Hiring unqualified assistance usually leads to a case denial, simply based on inadequacy and/or improper guidance.

Make sure to read our guide describing how you can win your asylum case.

Frequently Asked Questions About Asylum Denial Reasons

What are the protected areas for an asylum case?

Race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and particular social groups such as gender, family or clan membership, sexual orientation, and occupation.

How do I prove I am eligible for asylum in the United States?

To be given asylum in the U.S., applicants must give the USCIS interviewing officer, or judge, evidence that they have been persecuted based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Or they have a substantiated fear of future persecution based on the above reasons.

What if I do not understand a question the judge asks me at an asylum hearing?

Whether you don’t understand the question, don’t know or don’t remember something, simply state that you do not understand the question, that you do not know or do not remember.

Conclusion of Asylum Denial Reasons

Though it is painful to recount the harm that has happened to you and/or your family, it is imperative to give the details necessary to prove the severity. Likewise, it is crucial to your asylum case that you provide evidence that fully relates your situation back home — both in your written application and to the interviewing USCIS officer (or judge). Otherwise, he or she will be unable to determine that you are eligible for asylum in the U.S.

When gathering your evidentiary documents, be sure the foundation for your asylum request is perfectly consistent. This includes affidavit letters or in-person witness accounts relating to your situation, and giving identical answers to the officer that you have included in your application.

Meeting the asylum criteria, having a congruent case, submitting your application on time, attending all required appointments, and hiring qualified legal representation (when needed) determines the success of obtaining asylum in the United States. 

Lastly, it should be noted that the U.S. government presumably already has a record of previous visa applications in their archive, so it is important to use full honesty during the entire application process.