Obtaining Asylum in the United States: Essential Tips from An Immigration Attorney

Obtaining Asylum in the United States: Essential Tips from An Immigration Attorney

If you fear persecution in your country of origin due to your nationality, religious or political beliefs, or race, you are entitled to seek asylum in the United States. Naturally, in order to ask for asylum you have to be physically present in the United States.

A distinction should be made between the affirmative asylum process and the defensive asylum process. In the former case, you affirmatively apply for asylum of your own accord. Bear in mind that you should apply for asylum within one year of your last arrival in the US. That is, unless you can provide convincing evidence of changed circumstances that affect your eligibility or extraordinary circumstances that justify your delay in filing the application.

The defensive asylum process refers to the situation in which you request asylum as a defense against removal from the U.S (Withholding of Removal).

Criteria for Eligibility

To qualify for asylum, you need to prove that:

  • You fear governmental persecution in your country of origin. Bear in mind that torture is legally recognized as a form of persecution, while discrimination or other behaviors are subject to litigation. However, the increasing effect of numerous types of maltreatment, including economic disadvantages and encroachments on your basic human rights (the right to work, the right to a private life, freedom of thought and opinion) can add up to persecution.
  • You have been harmed or fear wrongful treatment from local authorities. Consider that the army and police forces are governmental structures, so if you fear you may suffer harm at their hands, this also counts as persecution. The same goes for harm inflicted by political, paramilitary or religious groups that authorities are “unable or disinclined to control”.
  • You fit into one of the above mentioned categories. If belonging to a particular racial, religious, national or social group (the latter category refers to social categories considered more vulnerable to persecution, such as women, children or LGBT individuals) makes you a target for persecution in your country of origin, this will also weigh as a criterion when assessing your application for asylum.

Bars to Asylum Seekers

Even if you meet the criteria above, certain circumstances might bar you from seeking asylum in the States. You should not ask for asylum in the US if you

  • have aggravated felony convictions on your record;
  • have committed a serious nonpolitical crime outside the United States;
  • are a risk to the national security of the United States;
  • have ordered, assisted, or took part in the persecution of any individual arising from political opinion, race, nationality, religion or other discriminating factors.

How a Competent Immigration Attorney Can Help with Your Application

Seek consultation with a reliable immigration attorney before filing an application for asylum. He or she can tell you what criteria in your particular situation can weigh in your favor in the assessment of your application and help you put forth a strong application. However, be wary of lawyers who “promise” you a sure victory in your application or encourage you to gloss over some facts. Bear in mind that filing a fraudulent or frivolous asylum application before an Immigration Court can have you permanently deported from the United States, without any hope of discretionary relief.