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Asylum status is offered by the US government to those who meet the definition of a refugee. In the Immigration and Nationality Act, a refugee is defined as one "who is unable or unwilling to return to and avail himself or herself of the protection of his or her home country or, if stateless, country of last habitual residence because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."

Asylum may be applied for by those already inside the United States or by those seeking admittance into the country at a port of entry, such as the border or an airport. All asylum applicants must be able to prove a credible, well-founded fear of persecution if they are returned to their home country. If they are unable to do so, they will be denied asylum protection and, if they are not admitted to or already in the US with another legal status, they will have to return home.

Asylum Process for Those in the United States

Those who are already in the US must apply for asylum status within one year of their last arrival in the country. They will need to file an Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal (Form I-589) with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As with other visa applicants, those applying for asylum must undergo extensive background and criminal checks, submit photographs and be fingerprinted. They also will be required to meet with an Asylum Officer, where they will be expected to answer questions about their background and their fears of persecution and, if applicable, how they have been persecuted in their home country.

Those who do not apply within one year of entry in the US may still be able to apply for asylum if they can demonstrate changed circumstances materially affecting their eligibility or extraordinary circumstances that led to the delay in their application for asylum within the required time. For example, if civil war broke out in their home country after the year deadline passed or US. .law changed to make them eligible when they were not before, this may rise to the level of a change in their personal circumstances.

Asylum Process for Those at a Port of Entry

Those who seek asylum at a port of entry face a different process than those already in the US seeking status. Generally, these people may not have the required paperwork or documentation to enter the US by another legal means. Their application for asylum is a defense to being denied entry and returned to their home country. These applicants may be detained while a final decision is pending, and may be required to plead their case before an Immigration Judge at the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). As with other asylum applicants, they will need to prove a credible fear of persecution to be granted asylum status. US government officials also may raise concerns about an applicant's suitability for asylum status during the hearing. The Immigration Judge will then determine whether asylum will be granted or denied.

Asylum status may be denied if:

  • The applicant failed to establish a well-founded fear of persecution, and thus, did not meet the definition of a refugee under US law
  • The applicant previously applied for asylum and was denied by an Immigration Judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)
  • The applicant can be safely removed to a third country under the provisions of a treaty or other agreement
  • The applicant is ineligible based on US immigration laws

For more information on applying for asylum, appealing a denial of asylum or helping a family member gain status as an asylee, contact an experienced immigration attorney in your area. Immigration laws are complex, and a denial of asylum can have long-lasting consequences.

Getting Ready To Apply for a Visa

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Getting Ready to Apply for a Visa

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