Tens of thousands of migrants arrive in the United States each year seeking protection from persecution in their native country. The US government is obliged to offer asylum to those who can prove they need protecting, allowing refugees to start a new life. However, not everyone who is eligible for asylum ends up receiving it. The asylum process is often dangerously misunderstood, and false information is commonly provided to asylum seekers, jeopardizing their chance for a new life. How does the asylum process work? Who can asylum seekers turn to for help?

CUP teamed up with The Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture (PSOT) and design studio Bardo Industries to create What is asylum?, a trilingual fold-out poster in English, Spanish, and French. The illustrated poster guides asylum seekers— many of whom have limited English and literacy skills— step-by-step through the difficult process of receiving asylum, and provides information about other resources they can turn to for assistance. 

What is asylum? launched at a training session for new and prospective clients at PSOT. Thousands of copies of the guide will also be distributed through their network of partner organizations. 

Resources & Links

The Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture’s mission is to assist individuals and families subjected to torture and other human rights abuses to rebuild healthy, self-sufficient lives, and to contribute to global efforts to end torture.

Bardo Industries is an independent multi-disciplinary design studio based in Brooklyn, New York.

Making Policy Public is a program of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). CUP partners with policy advocates and graphic designers to produce foldout posters that explain complicated policy issues, like this one.

Funding Support

Support for this project was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. 

Special Thanks

Komi Dotsa, Clinton Doumbia, Meredith Fortin, Kemah George, Ingrid Haftel, Nick Johnson, Delpech Massengo, Hawthorne E. Smith, Mark Torrey, Jean-Pierre Tshilumba, Moussa Youla


  • CUP
  • Christine Gaspar
  • Oscar Nuñez
  • Bellevue/NYU Program
    for Survivors of Torture
  • Advocate Partner
  • Nicole Attar
  • John Wilkinson
  • Amanda Winchester
Bardo Industries