Asylum in the United States is an ever-evolving, increasingly complicated field of U.S. immigration law. Different presidential administrations have enforced different priorities and policies when it comes to asylum seekers in the United States.
Asylum typically has two tracks: affirmative applications and defensive applications. Affirmative applications are filed with USCIS for applicants who are not in removal proceedings or applicants who have designated as Unaccompanied Minors (UACs). Defensive applications are filed by respondents in immigration court cases, in order to defend themselves from deportation. Read more about defensive asylum here.
To win asylum, an applicant must establish a series of critical elements:
1. They have been persecuted in the past or are likely to be persecuted in the future;
2. The persecution is because of their religion, nationality, race/ethnicity, political opinion, and/or membership in a particular social group;
3. Their home country’s authorities are unwilling or unable to protect them from this persecution, and/or the government participates in the persecution;
4. There is no safe place to which the individual could reasonably relocate within their native country;
5. The asylum application was filed within the first year of the applicant’s arrival to the United States; and
6. The applicant does not have any disqualifying criminal or immigration history.
There are many grey areas in current U.S. asylum law, particularly surrounding gang and gender-based violence in Latin American countries. Individuals fleeing generalized violence or unsafe conditions in their home countries do not always qualify to receive asylum. The important question to ask when considering whether to apply for asylum is: “what is it about me/my family in particular that makes us especially vulnerable to persecution?”
Applicants for asylum are often eligible to get a work permit while they wait for their case to be decided.
Because of the complicated nature of asylum law and the way USCIS currently interprets it, individuals considering applying for asylum should not hesitate to schedule a consultation with an experienced U.S. asylum attorney to make sure they are familiar with the elements of their case and what they need to prove to win.
Once someone receives asylum, they are later eligible to apply for a green card and ultimately become a U.S. Citizen, as long as they comply with the rules and requirements.