What are the classifications protected by US asylum law?

Many people think they can seek asylum in the U.S. for any reason.  However, the categories of activities or characteristics which are protected by federal asylum law are actually rather narrow.

In order to qualify for asylum, the alien must show that he or she is unable to return to their home because of past persecution or a “well-founded” fear of future persecution.  The persecution must be based upon the alien’s:

  • race;
  • religion;
  • nationality;
  • membership in a particular social group; and/or,
  • political opinion.

A person may submit an asylum application based upon more than one reasons for persecution.  The person seeking asylum bears the burden of proof and has to show a “reasonable possibility” that persecution will occur.

One benefit of asylum (besides being able to stay in the U.S.) is that the asylee can seek lawful permanent resident status after being in the United States for one year.