Asylum

Overview

Certain foreign nationals may qualify for asylum/refugee depending on where they are at the time of their application. If an immigrant files while in the U.S. and granted asylum, he/she is called an asylee. If an immigrant files while outside the U.S., he/she is called a refugee.


Asylum

An immigrant who files for asylum while in the U.S. is an asylee. An immigrant can avoid removal by applying for asylum due to a well-founded fear of persecution upon returning to their home country. The cause of this fear must be based on political opinion, religious belief, nationality, race, or membership in a particular social group. The criteria to establish a “well-founded fear” are difficult. Granting asylum is soley at the discretion of USDOJ. After one year as an asylee, an immigrant may be eligible to apply for a green card. The number of immigrants granted asylum is subject to quotas.

Refugee

An immigrant who files for asylum from outside the U.S. is a refugee. Usually, a refugee applies for asylum outside the U.S. in a refugee camp. A refugee can apply for asylum due to a well-founded fear of persecution in his/her home country. The cause of this fear must be based on political opinion, religious belief, nationality, race, or membership in a particular social group. Usually, the process for refugees is quicker than asylees. This is because they do not have to prove their status as a refugee since it is already determined while outside the U.S.

Convention Against Torture and Other Crimes

It is the policy of the United States, in accordance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture, not to deport any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture. The standard is whether a person would be tortured “more likely than not” if they were deported to their home country.

Withholding of Removal

Withholding of Removal is a different standard than asylum. It is based on a probability of harm to the immigrant if he/she is returned to their specific home country. It allows immigrant to remain in the U.S but without status and is not eligible for a green card. Preparing this is more difficult than asylum and the benefits are less from those given to asylees. However, this relief is mandated by law if applicant can prove his/her case. This relief is not subject to quotas.

FAQ:

Q. Is there a deadline to apply for asylum?
A. To apply for asylum, an immigrant needs to apply within 1 year of his/her arrival to the U.S. If 1 year has gone by since arriving to the U.S., an immigrant cannot apply for asylum unless he/she can show some extraordinary circumstance, or change in circumstances in their home country.

Q. When do I get a green card if granted asylum?
A. If granted asylum, an immigrant may apply for a green card after 1 year.

Q. Can I apply for asylum even if I came to the U.S. illegally?
A. Yes. Irrespective of immigrant’s status, an immigrant can still apply for asylum.

Q. Can I apply for asylum even if I have a criminal record?
A.
If an immigrant has committed a serious crime, it could bar him/her from obtaining an asylum status.

Q. Can I apply for asylum even if I have a criminal conviction outside the U.S.?
A. If an immigrant has committed a serious crime, even if outside the U.S., it could bar him/her from obtaining an asylum status.