Asylum is a form of protection given by the United States government to individuals who have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, and/or political opinion. “Persecution” means to harass, punish, injure, oppress, or otherwise cause someone to suffer physical or psychological harm. Such examples include threats, violence, torture, severe discrimination and economic persecution, or a denial of basic human rights and freedoms. This fear of persecution must be either by the government of one’s country or by a group that the government is unable or unwilling to control. A person who is granted asylum may remain in the U.S. indefinitely and may apply for permanent residence after one year.
To apply for asylum, the applicant must fill out an Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal [Form I-589], within one year of arrival to the United States. The applicant’s spouse and children (who are under 21 and unmarried) who are inside or outside the United States may be included on the application at the time of filing or at any time until a final decision is made. If a person is in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge, he or she may also be eligible to apply for withholding of removal and for relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
Further, an applicant may be granted asylum based on past persecution alone. If the applicant can sufficiently demonstrate past persecution, then he or she is presumed to have a well-founded fear of persecution. However, if there has been a fundamental change in circumstances or the applicant could reasonably relocate to another part of the country of origin, then this presumption can be rebutted. Even if an applicant cannot demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution, there is still hope that the applicant can be granted asylum if there are other compelling reasons that he or she is unable or unwilling to return to their home country based on past persecution or if there is a possibility that he or she may suffer other serious harm.
However, unlike asylum, obtaining withholding of removal or relief under CAT does not necessarily lead to permanent residence in the United States. Also keep in mind that there are a few bars to withholding of removal. For example, if an individual has been convicted by a final judgment of a particularly serious crime and therefore represents a danger to the United States, or if he or she has persecuted another person, withholding of removal will be denied. Whether an individual qualifies for asylum, or for a withholding of removal or CAT, it is important to gather enough facts and evidence and to build a strong case from the beginning, since individuals can only apply for asylum once. Since asylum applications can be extremely complicated, it is important to have the right facts and guidance necessary to navigate this process.
We are highly experienced in the asylum application process, so if you have any further questions about your case or would like to request a consultation, please contact our office and we would be happy to assist.