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Asylum Law: A Beginner’s Guide

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Statue of Liberty New York Harbor [published between 1900 and 1910], courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Reading Room
Detail of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor [published between 1900 and 1910] (Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division).
This post was co-authored by Robert Brammer and Barbara Bavis, Legal Reference Librarians.

In the recent public debate regarding immigration reform, some groups have called for a change to our current method of granting asylum to those who fear returning to their country of origin due to “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”  The asylum process is often described as “complex” and “complicated,” and as being full of pitfalls for asylum seekers and those trying to assist them.  In light of the intricate nature of the process, and the requests we receive for research assistance in the area, we felt that this topic deserved its own Beginner’s Guide.


One of the best places to begin research in an unfamiliar area of law is with a treatise or handbook. This list includes treatises and handbooks that should be of use to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

Statutes, Regulations, and Proposed Laws

As we noted in our prior Beginner’s Guide on immigration law, many of the statutes and regulations regarding immigration law, including asylum, can be found in Title 8 of the United States Code and of the Code of Federal Regulations, respectively.  To find copies of these statutes and regulations online, we suggest that you use the Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) website.

Considering recent discussion regarding possible changes to the law in the future, however, researchers may want to know how to access information about proposed laws.  To track bills and resolutions introduced in Congress, use, our new, user-friendly legislative information system.  If you are more interested in proposed and new regulations, copies of the Federal Register can be found on FDsys, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a listing of immigration-specific Federal Register Announcements on its website.

Case Law and Administrative Guidance

When dealing with asylum law, particularly regarding a case that may be contested by the government, finding administrative guidance promulgated by USCIS and case law produced by judicial bodies such as the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is essential.  Information about these decisions can be found in the following resources:

Online Resources

Luckily, many asylum-related resources are also freely available online, including the forms necessary for filing an asylum claim with USCIS.  We have broken these sites down into three general topics: (1) country research, which is absolutely crucial when trying to determine or prove that there is a demonstrated persecution of certain groups of people in a country; (2) free or low-cost providers of legal services, as asylum cases can often be long and difficult to prove; and (3) general information about asylum law, including handbooks, manuals, and up-to-the-minute news sources.

Country Research

Free or Low-Cost Legal Services

General Information About Asylum Law

Do you have a favorite resource related to asylum law? Please let us know in the comments section.  If you have any questions, please contact the Law Library of Congress.


  1. hi am a student University of Nigeria ie Unn and i want to know more about this immigration reform

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