There are two paths to asylum status in the U.S.; Affirmative asylum and defensive asylum process.
The affirmative asylum process applies to those who arrived at a point of entry into the U.S. or are already in the U.S. They need to declare their application for asylum in the U.S. to the authorities using Form I-589. The application need to be filed within one year of arrival in the U.S. The USCIS conducts fingerprinting and background/security check once the application is received. An interview will be scheduled for the applicant. Usually the interview notice arrive within 21 days of filing Form I-589. An interview will be conducted usually within 43 days. The interviewing asylum officer will make a determination whether you are eligible to apply for asylum and the decision will be generally made within two weeks of the interview.
The defensive asylum process applies to individuals who are requesting asylum as a form of relief or defense against forcible removal from the U.S. These applications go before an immigration judge. This process also applies to those who are caught trying to enter into the U.S. without proper documents. They should demonstrate credible evidence to prove fear of persecution or torture.