The United States is willing to help foreign nationals who face persecution in their countries and welcomes them with open arms. But whether you will receive help when you need it depends on whether you know how to qualify for asylum in the U.S.
Not everyone is eligible for asylum opportunities in the United States.
Eligibility criteria to qualify for asylum in the U.S.
There are two types of protection that the U.S. provides to persecuted foreign nationals. If you are residing outside the U.S. you can seek refugee protection. However, if you are currently residing in the U.S. and fear facing persecution in your country of origin upon returning, you can seek asylum in the Unite States. There are some strict eligibility criteria that you need to fulfill in order to qualify for asylum in the U.S.
For anyone to be eligible for asylum, they must fit the definition of refugees as mentioned in 8 U.S. Code § 1101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
You also have to produce valid proof of past persecution in your home country or your previous country of residence. Proof is also required if you haven’t faced persecution in the past but have a justified fear of being persecuted in your country of origin/ the country where you last resided.
Persecution, in this case, has to be based on one or more of the following five reasons –
- Membership of a specific social group
- Political opinions
In most cases, your testimony is enough to prove that you have faced or have a fear of facing persecution in your country. But your testimony has to be credible, persuasive, and factual enough to demonstrate that you are a refugee. In some cases, evidence of record may also be needed to verify the credibility of your refugee status. If you are asked for such evidence of proof, you will have to produce it unless there is a valid reason why you cannot obtain it.
Also, the threat of persecution you face should be nationwide. this means that if you can avoid persecution by simply moving to another part of your home country, you will not be considered eligible for asylum in the U.S. Furthermore, you must apply for asylum within one year of entering the United States, unless you meet certain exceptions or exemptions from the one year bar.
Who is not eligible for asylum or refugee status in the U.S.?
In general, the asylum and refugee status eligibility does not apply to any foreign national who –
- has himself/herself participated, incited, or assisted in the persecution of any person
- has been convicted under the law, of a serious crime that may position them as a threat to the community of the U.S.
- gives strong reason to believe that they may have committed a serious non-political crime outside the U.S. before arriving in the States
- may be a danger to the security of the United States
- was resettled in another nation before coming to the U.S.
Apart from these criteria, any individual who was likely involved in a felony case may also be considered to be convicted of a serious crime.
How to apply for asylum in the U.S.?
To apply for asylum in the U.S., you need to complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal. The application form needs to be filed within a year of arriving in the country. (Unless you meet certain exceptions).
After the application is submitted, you must appear for an interview with an Asylum Officer or if in removal proceedings with an Immigration Judge. The Asylum Officer or an Immigration Judge will ascertain whether you meet the definition of a refugee under the U.S. Law and will investigate if there are any objections to asylum that may apply in your case.
Can anyone help you with your asylum interview?
You are allowed to bring a lawyer or a representative to your asylum interview, or to any other immigration proceedings for that matter.
For applicants who are not fluent in English, the law permits bringing an interpreter who is fluent in both English and the language the applicant speaks. The interpreter must be 18 years of age or older. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services itself does not provide any interpreters or attorneys to applicants.
What are the different types of asylum?
There are two types of asylum you can apply for in the U.S. – Affirmative asylum and Defensive asylum. If you have not been ordered to be deported or removed from the U.S., by the U.S. government, you can apply for Affirmative asylum. In case you have been placed in removal proceedings, you will need to apply for Defensive asylum.
Can family members be brought to the U.S. for asylum?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to bring your family members to the U.S. until you have received asylum yourself. After you are granted asylum, however, you may be allowed to bring your spouse and eligible children (Less than 21 years of age) to the U.S. by filing a petition through Form I-730.
If your spouse and children are already living with you in the U.S., they can be included in your application as dependents, and you are required to bring them to the asylum interview. If you are granted asylum after the interview, your spouse and children will also receive asylum in the U.S. unless they are ineligible in some way.
In any case, you must mention your spouse and children when applying for asylum in Form I-589, irrespective of whether they are living with you in the U.S. or not.
Any children turning 21 years while your asylum application is pending, will still be eligible for asylum status unless they get married.
Hire an experienced attorney to help you with your asylum application and interview
The asylum application process is a long winding one. Though the U.S. is happy to help people in times of humanitarian crises, yet obtaining asylum in the country may take time and the eligibility criteria are very rigid. An experienced Immigration Attorney can help you present your case much better in front of the Asylum Officer or an Immigration Judge. An attorney can help you understand the requirements and the nuances of the process, increasing your likelihood of receiving asylum in the U.S.
Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office, P.C., has helped hundreds of individuals and families overcome the challenges of seeking asylum. Our clients are now happily and safely residing in the U.S. leading respectable lives like everyone else in the country.
If you too are struggling with asylum applications, get in touch with our experienced Immigration Attorneys for assistance.