Asylum Status Explained

Asylum is a form of legal protection provided to foreigners who can prove that they have a credible fear of being persecuted if they return to their homeland. The concept of providing a safe haven to those fleeing oppression was embraced by the United Nations in 1951. At first, this was limited to protecting the millions of Europeans affected by World War II. However, since 1967, the Refugee Convention was opened up to all refugees.

Although the law does not specify what constitutes “persecution” for the purposes of claiming asylum, case law shows that it includes acts of violence, threats, torture, imprisonment, and denial of fundamental human rights and freedoms. The only type of persecution codified in law is coercive population control programs that force individuals to undergo forced sterilization and abortion (a practice witnessed in mainland China).

Who Is Eligible?

To qualify for asylum under U.S. immigration law, you must provide evidence that you have suffered persecution or are likely to face persecution based on any of the factors below:

  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Political opinion, meaning that you hold (or are believed to hold) opinions that your government won’t tolerate and will likely lead to your imprisonment
  • Membership in a particular social group (This includes members of the LGBTQ+ community and tribes or ethnic groups targeted by their governments.)

Your fear of persecution must be “well-founded,” meaning that you have at least a one-in-ten chance of experiencing the feared violence or harm.

Applying for Asylum

To claim asylum, you must prepare an application and supplement it with evidence proving that you have reason to fear future persecution. This evidence could include your own testimony, witness statements, and newspaper coverage of the situation in your home country. The application needs to be made within one year of your arrival in the U.S., although there are two exceptions to this deadline:

  • You experienced changed circumstances which materially affected your ability to apply for asylum
  • There were extraordinary circumstances which led to the delay.

Applications for asylum can be made inside or outside the U.S. Even if you are in removal proceedings, you can still apply to an immigration court for withholding of removal/asylum under the Convention Against Torture.

Once granted asylum, you are legally allowed to stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation. You can work, travel abroad, and apply to have your spouse and children join you as asylees.

It is important to note that you cannot apply for asylum here if you were “firmly resettled” in another country before coming to the U.S. For example, if you flee China and come to Canada, where you receive asylum and permanent residence, you are considered “firmly resettled” in Canada.

Contact a New York Asylum Attorney

Making a case for asylum is not easy. Your application must be prepared in a specific way and supported by carefully-presented evidence. At RelisLaw PLLC, we will ensure that the application is detailed and persuasive, and protect your rights if appeals or withholding of removal proceedings become necessary. We are committed human rights advocates who will fight tirelessly for your right to live in safety.

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We help people from around the world to live and work freely in the U.S., to achieve their dreams, unite families, or escape persecution. No matter what immigration service you need, RelisLaw will provide caring and dependable counsel to you and aggressive advocacy to vigorously fight for you using every available legal avenue. As a global firm, we work with people in countries around the world. We meet clients across the U.S., as well as in New York, Toronto, and Montréal. We also meet with clients globally, located in any country, via Skype and other platforms.

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