Who Can Apply for Asylum in the U.S.?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Cory Forman with Cohen Forman Barone, LLP.

Who Can Apply for Asylum in the U.S.?
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Asylum refers to a legal protection granted in the United States to foreign nationals or immigrants who meet the international definition of a refugee. According to the United Nations Refugee Act of 1980, a refugee is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their home country due to a well-founded fear of persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”. An asylee (i.e. a person granted asylum) cannot be returned to their home country and typically receives authorization to work in the United States, can request permission to travel overseas, may be eligible for Medicaid and other refugee medical assistance, and can even petition to have family members enter the United States.

To be eligible for asylum, individuals must be able to prove that they have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution.

If someone can prove that they have already suffered persecution or fear being persecuted for issues such as race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and/or social group memberships, they may be eligible to apply for and be granted asylum in the United States. However, proving that the fear of persecution is “well-founded” can pose a challenge; if the individual in question cannot prove that this is well-founded, they could find their application for asylum denied. An application could also be denied if the applicant applies for asylum prior to arriving in the United States, or if they fail to apply within one year after arriving. Other reasons an application for asylum could be denied include submitting an incomplete application or posing a threat to national security. 

Applying for asylum can be difficult without an attorney.

Unfortunately, the application process for asylum can be complex and may be difficult to complete without the assistance of an expert; this is why it is recommended to reach out to an immigration lawyer for help compiling the necessary documents, evidence, and forms for your application. Immigration attorneys understand the process as well as what kind of evidence a court will typically require in order to approve an asylum request. These attorneys can also ensure that the application is completed correctly the first time around, a service that can be truly invaluable in an already stressful process. 

Additionally, if you are found ineligible for asylum, there may be alternative options to pursue that may allow you to legally remain in the United States. For example, an immigration lawyer can refer you to your options under the Withholding of Removal and Relief Under the Convention Against Torture Act (CAT Relief) as well as other options that may be available.

After one year, an asylee can apply for their Green Card.

Asylum status can be useful not only in the short-term, preventing the individual from being returned to a potentially dangerous place, but can also help on the path to citizenship. After one year of living with asylum status, the asylee can apply for lawful permanent resident status; in other words, their Green Card. After the asylee has become a lawful permanent resident, they must keep their Green Card for four years before they can continue to the ten-step naturalization process, after which the individual may be granted United States citizenship.

To learn more about who can apply for asylum in the United States, or for help with the application or immigration process, reach out to an immigration lawyer in your area.

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