Qualifying For Asylum

Who Can Apply for Asylum?

A person can qualify for asylum if he or she has:

  • A reasonable fear
  • Of future persecution
  • On account of
  • Race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a social group

Reasonable Fear

A person’s application for asylum must show that he or she has a “reasonable fear” of future persecution.  This refers to the likelihood that someone will be persecuted in the future.  An applicant for asylum does not need to prove they are guaranteed to be persecuted in the future, and does not even need to show it is more likely than not.  Asylum law says that a person has a reasonable fear of persecution even if there is only a 10-15% chance of being persecuted in the future.

Persecution and Future Persecution

In order to qualify for asylum, one must prove that the persecution one fears will happen after returning to his or her home country.  This can be difficult to prove, as it requires one to speculate about what things might happen in the future.

However, if an applicant can establish that he or she was persecuted in the past, U.S. law says that that person has a reasonable fear of future persecution, unless the government can prove otherwise.  There are only two ways the government can show that there is not a reasonable fear despite past persecution: 1) if  the conditions in that country have changed enough so that there is no longer a danger, or 2) if the applicant could reasonably live in a separate part of that country and be safe from persecution.

Persecution is not defined in U.S. asylum law, so the government will look at what is in an asylum application on a case by case basis.  Generally, any severe loss of life or liberty will be considered persecution.  Torture or severe bodily harm will always be considered persecution, as well as being locked up for an extended period of time.  A threat of persecution or death can be considered persecution if a person is threatened often and from a credible source.

On Account Of

A fear of future persecution alone is not enough to get a right to asylum.  This persecution must be done “on account of” one’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group.  An asylum application must demonstrate two things to satisfy this requirement:

 

  1. The applicant must show that the reason the persecution that is being done is because of being in one of the five protected grounds (race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group).   This can cause confusion because sometimes a person is persecuted for multiple reasons.  In situations like these, the applicant must show that one of the five protected grounds is one of the primary reasons for persecution.  If the government decides that being in one of the five protected grounds is only a minor cause of the persecution, asylum will not be granted.
  2. The asylum applicant must show that the persecution is done either by the country’s government or by people who the government cannot or will not control.  Typically, showing the direct involvement of a government official (like a uniformed soldier) is enough to show that the government is responsible.

Sometimes, there is a group, like a rebel army or criminal organization,  that is so powerful that they effectively control areas of a country such that the government cannot protect the people there from persecution.  Other times, the government does not even try to protect people from persecution, possibly because of corruption or local culture.  In both of these situations, a victim of persecution can be granted asylum.

Race, Religion, National Origin, Political Opinion, or Member in a Particular Social Group

In order for an application for asylum to succeed, a person’s fear of future persecution must be on account of five protected grounds – race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Bars to Asylum

People who are eligible for asylum are exempted from several grounds of inadmissibility that would cause other immigrants to be deported or not allowed to enter in the first place.  Immigration violations such as entering illegally or living and working in the United States illegally do not prevent someone from being granted asylum.  There are some things that bar someone from receiving asylum, though.  A mandatory bar prevents someone from ever getting asylum, while the discretionary bars can sometimes be overcome.

Mandatory Bars

  • Conviction of an aggravated felony
  • Support of any terrorist group
  • Assisted in the persecution of others

Discretionary Bars

  • The noncitizen had an opportunity to live permanently in a third country before entering the United States)
  • The noncitizen is applying for asylum more than a year after entering the United States (unless they had a valid immigration status)
  • The noncitizen previously had an asylum application denied by an Immigration Court
US Asylum Attorney

U.S. asylum law is very complex.  With all of the requirements and bars to getting asylum, you get your best chance of success by working with an experienced asylum attorney.  Our U.S. asylum attorneys know how to put together a successful asylum application and can guide you through the entire asylum process.  They have helped people from around the world achieve permanent residence in the U.S.