What Is Asylum? As outlined in the U.S. and international law, it is a protection that foreign nationals receive if they can prove that they have a reasonable fear of future persecution on returning to their home country on account of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a social group.
Understanding the grounds for asylum
You should already be in the United States to apply for asylum. You need to prove that you underwent persecution or that you fear future persecution in your home country. Persecution includes physical or psychological abuse due to harassment, punishment, damage, cruelty, etc.
Hence, if you have suffered from acts such as threats, violence, torture, inappropriate imprisonment, or denial of primary human rights or freedoms, you could be eligible to seek asylum.
The U.S. government recognizes five grounds to grant asylum or refugee status:
You can apply for asylum in the U.S. based on five grounds viz. race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and membership of a specific social group. At times, there could be multiple reasons for persecution in your home country. You need to prove which is the primary reason while seeking asylum.
Political opinion asylum
To seek asylum on this ground, you need to prove that the authorities in your home country cannot tolerate you because you are critical of governments policies and have participated in anti-government protests in some way or the other.
Another option is that you prove that the authorities have mistakenly assumed that you hold certain opinions due to your characteristics such as religion or family group.
Social group membership
You must either prove that you belong to an identifiable group of people whom the government of your home country views as a threat, or to a social group that the U.S. usually accepts for asylum.
For example, you should belong to ethnic groups, specific social classes, family members of dissidents, or members or former members of the police or military.
Know what benefits asylum seekers get if they receive it
If you receive asylum, it also entitles your wife and kids to a derivative grant of asylum even if they are outside the U.S. You need to act fast as certain benefits are temporary. For your spouse to be eligible for asylum, you must have proof of legal marriage such as a government-issued certificate.
Your children should be unmarried and below 21 years of age to be eligible for asylum. It is also important to know that even if you die your wife and kids will continue to have the asylum status. You and your family get the benefit of applying for U.S. lawful permanent residence after one year.
You should contact the Refugee Resettlement Agency to help you obtain benefits such as living expenses and housing assistance; psychological counseling; applying for Social Security card, refugee travel document, health care, food stamps; enrolling in English classes; job-training classes, and placement services.
After obtaining the Social Security Number, you can apply for a driving license in the state you live and for a Green Card after one year of receiving asylum. You can also register for U.S. Citizenship after four years of obtaining Permanent Residency or Green Card.
Applying for asylum
You can apply for asylum at any port-of-entry including border crossing, airport, or seaport. You can register with either the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) within one year of entry into the U.S.
You should demonstrate and provide proof that you are seeking asylum in the U.S. based on a valid ground for asylum as we have discussed earlier.
However, under certain special circumstances, you can apply for asylum even after completing one year of stay in the United States. For example, if the conditions in your home country have materially changed, or your circumstances have changed in such a way that you will face a threat if you return to your home country.
Additionally, if you can prove that some extraordinary circumstances prevented you from applying for asylum within one year of your arrival, you could do it successfully. You should take guidance from an Asylum Lawyer near you if you wish to apply under special circumstances.
If the authorities have placed you in removal proceedings, you can apply for asylum through a defensive application wherein who are defending yourself from getting deported. You need to submit such an appeal directly to an immigration court judge and not to USCIS.
If the judge accepts your application, you will have to appear for an individual hearing where you and your Asylum Lawyer can defend your claim for asylum. A competent attorney will use your testimony, documentary evidence, and witnesses to strengthen your case. You should know that the hearing will be similar to a trial in terms of preparation required.
If you are not facing removal, and you submit an affirmative application, but the USCIS denies it, you need to re-submit it and start a defensive process in front of a judge.
Also, if you have received a conviction for a crime in the U.S., the law does not allow you to apply for asylum. You should consult a lawyer to understand if yours is an aggravated felony and what are your options.
A seemingly simple application could become a complicated defensive process if you do not exercise care in doing it. An asylum lawyer knows the latest conditions and court decisions. He or she can help in strengthening your application.
The attorney can also help you determine the best sources for collecting evidence that you can present before the immigration court to defend your claim. Since the asylum law in the U.S. is complex and subject to frequent changes, it is in your best interest to take guidance from a competent lawyer.
You can use the LawTally website to connect with the best Asylum Lawyer near you quickly. It lists the most reputed and experienced attornies from across the nation and helps in alleviating your legal problems.