Asylum is available to people who are already in the United States and who fear returning to their home country due to actual past persecution or who have a well-founded fear of future persecution based upon their:
- Membership in a particular social group, or
- Political opinion
If you are still in your home country and have these fears, you may be able to apply to become a “refugee.” Asylum status and refugee status are closely related. They differ only in the place where a person asks for the status; asylum is sought in the United States and refugee status is requested from outside of the United States. If you do not qualify for asylum, but fear being tortured upon returning to your homeland, you can apply instead for consideration under the Convention Against Torture.
Every year, immigrants are returned to their countries only to be harmed for their ethnic origin, nationality, religion, membership in a social group, or political beliefs. Do not let that happen to you. If you believe you may have an asylum claim, please contact Aretz & Heise Immigration today to review your case with an experienced attorney.
Who Is Eligible to Apply for Asylum?
To be eligible for asylum in the United States, you must ask for asylum at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport or border crossing), or file an application within one year of your arrival in the United States. There are some exceptions to this rule, including if conditions in your country have recently changed, or if your personal circumstances have changed in such a way that your ability to apply was effected. You may also be excused from the one year deadline if you can show that extraordinary circumstances prevented you from filing within the one year period after your arrival, so long as you apply within a reasonable time thereafter. You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status, including if you are illegally in the United States.
In addition to showing eligibility for asylum, the individual must demonstrate that he or she merits a favorable exercise of discretion. In other words, asylum is not mandatory and can be denied on discretionary grounds.
Who Is Ineligible to Apply for Asylum?
There are certain grounds that result in a mandatory denial of an asylum application. You may not be eligible for asylum if you yourself have participated in the persecution of others, or if you’ve “firmly resettled” in a country other than your home country (for example, by obtaining permanent residency in a country other than your home country or the United States). Note also that fear of poverty or random violence isn’t of itself enough to qualify you for asylum.
The following acts make a person ineligible for asylum in the U.S.:
- Participation in the persecution of others;
- Conviction for a particularly serious crime including aggravated felonies;
- Commission of a serious nonpolitical crime outside the U.S.;
- Terrorist activity, including material support to a terrorist organization;
- Ability to be removed to a safe third country;
- Classification as a national security risk; and
- Previous denial of asylum, unless there have been changed circumstances.
What Are the Benefits of Asylum?
If you are granted asylum, you will be allowed to live and work in the United States and receive certain federal means-tested public benefits. You also will be able to apply for permanent resident status one year after you are granted asylum. You may include your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 in your own asylum application if your spouse or children are in the United States, or after you have been granted asylum status if your spouse and children are outside the United States.
What Is the Application Process for Asylum?
There are two routes to apply for asylum:
- Affirmatively through a USCIS asylum officer, or
- Defensively with an immigration judge as part of a removal hearing.
If the application for asylum is not approved by a USCIS asylum officer, then the case will be referred to an immigration judge, and you will have another opportunity to prove that you deserve asylum in front of an immigration judge.
Contact Aretz & Heise Immigration today if you believe that you or someone you know may be eligible to apply for asylum.