The United States is obliged to recognize valid claims for asylum under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. As defined by these agreements, a refugee is a person who is outside his or her country of nationality (or place of habitual residence if stateless) who, owing to a fear of persecution on account of a protected ground, is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of the state. Protected grounds include race, nationality, religion, political opinion and membership of a particular social group.
The following is an overview of what you need to know if you are considering seeking asylum in the United States:
1. What is Asylum?
- Asylum is a protection granted to foreign persons already in the United States or those arriving who meet the international definition of refugee.
- Refugees are persons who have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
2. When can you apply?
- For those who meet the definition of “refugee,” an Application for Asylum and for Withholding From Removal, Form I-589 can be submitted within ONE YEAR of arriving to the United States*.
*Most applications are denied because applicants miss the one year deadline
3. What must you prove?
- Applicants must prove/demonstrate that they have suffered harm or persecution, or have a well founded fear of suffering future harm or persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
4. What is the process?
- Persons who are entering the United States have to express fear of returning to their home country or must ask that they are seeking asylum and be offered a “credible fear interview.”
- For those placed in removal proceedings upon arriving and encountering the government, the credible fear interview happens while the person is detained. This is considered a defensive application for asylum to defend against deportation
- In some instances applicants may apply directly to USCIS through form I-589. However, if that application is denied, the applicant will be placed in removal proceedings.
- Once the asylum application is filed, an Asylum Officer makes the decision whether to grant asylum or not. If granted, the applicant is considered an asylee and the case is over. If not granted, the applicant is issued a Notice to Appear and is placed in removal and must go before an immigration judge and the judge makes the decision.
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