Fact Check

Can Asylum-Seekers Apply at U.S. Embassies Abroad?

“The United States does not grant asylum in its diplomatic premises abroad.”

Published July 3, 2019

Non-U.S. citizens can apply for asylum from abroad at a U.S. embassy or consulate office.

A frequent but wholly inaccurate talking point used by some opponents of more open southern border immigration policies is the claim that asylum-seekers can present themselves and apply for asylum at locations outside of the United States, such as a U.S. consulate or embassy. Why, the argument falsely posits, would persons with genuine claims to asylum risk their lives (and potentially the lives of their family members as well) to cross the U.S. border illegally when they could simply wait out the asylum approval process from the relative comfort of the countries in which they currently reside?:

The answer, in part, is that one cannot apply for asylum anywhere but in the United States. Though nine U.S. consulate general offices and one U.S embassy are indeed located in Mexico, those facilities would be useless to asylum-seekers. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), “To apply for asylum in the U.S., you must be physically present in the U.S”:

Having a presence at, or proximity to, U.S. diplomatic property abroad does not qualify as “physically present in the U.S.” As stated on several U.S. embassy websites: “The United States does not grant asylum in its diplomatic premises abroad. Under U.S. law, the United States grants asylum only to aliens who are physically present in the United States.”


Labrador, Raul.   “Labrador: Change 'Catch and Release' Policy; Don't Encourage Migrants to Bring Children.”     Idaho Statesman.   27 June 2018.

U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico.   “Find Your Consular Location."     Accessed 3 June 2019.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.   “Obtaining Asylum in the United States."     Accessed 3 June 2019.

U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Italy.   “U.S. Refugee Program."     Accessed 3 June 2019.

U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Poland.   “Political Asylum and Refugees."     Accessed 3 June 2019.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.