USCIS has been inundated with an increase in asylum cases over the past two years. Many times, people file these asylum cases without an attorney and do so at their peril. Developing facts and packaging documents and narrative together well greatly increases the chances of success on an asylum case.
In this video, Jim Hacking discusses 5 important things to keep in mind when applying for asylum. Learn how the asylum process works, ways to strengthen your case and what the important questions are that any asylum applicant must answer in order to be successful.
We’ve been seeing an uptake in the number of people who come to our office to ask about asylum and we understand why. It’s typically because someone’s fearing that if they return to their home country they’re going to face persecution.
Now what exactly is persecution? Under the law persecution means that someone fears that they’re going to experience physical or psychological harm if they return to their home country. Now, the best way to show persecution, the threat of future persecution is by demonstrating that you have experienced persecution in the past. It’s important to keep in mind that persecution is not just some discomfort or that life would be bad for me if I have to go back home, or that life is bad for everybody back home. That’s not enough to demonstrate persecution and to demonstrate that you have a well-founded fear of persecution if you return home.
The persecution has to either be at the hands of the government, or your government has to be unwilling or unable to stop persecution by outside forces upon you. And there’s five categories of persecution that the law recognizes. The first three are pretty basic.
One, are you going to be persecuted based on race? Second, based on your religion, or being a member of a particular sect of religion, if one particular sect of your religion controls the country and another sect, and you’re a member of the minority sect or the least powerful sect, then you might be able to obtain asylum based on religious reasons. Nationality is the third reason that’s pretty straight forward, that because of what country you’re from or who you’re from that means that you’re going to suffer persecution, then you’re going to be able to at least make a colorable claim for asylum.
The last two are a little bit more tricky. The first is political opinion. So if you have expressed political opinions that your home government doesn’t approve of and you can demonstrate that people who make those kinds of opinions known or that you have made those opinions known and that because of that your government is going to torture you, or harass you, or cause you physical pain or psychological pain if you return to your home country, then you might be eligible for asylum based on political opinion.
The last group is membership in a particular social group. That’s a broadly phrased and more encompassing definition than the others. And there’s some sort of leeway there for asylum officers to work with you in trying to determine whether or not you receive asylum. Membership in a particular social group means that you might be part of a minority group, or that you’re a group that has received persecution in the past, for example homosexuals back in certain countries receive persecution, so a particular social group has been expanded to include women in situations where there are oppressive actions directed solely to women sort of like FGM or those kinds of things. So membership in a particular social group can also work as the basis for asylum.
Some people get confused about asylum versus refugees. The real distinction there is that people who seek asylum are in the United States. People who want to come to the United States because they’re experiencing persecution in their home country are determined to be refugees. And that’s the distinction there.
A couple of things to keep in mind that there is a deadline to file, that generally you have to file for asylum within one year of arrival in the United States, unless you had lawful status the whole time while you’ve been here. Then once you fall out of legal status you have one year from that point to file. The other thing is that you’re going to get two shots at the apple with asylum.
The first is, you’re going to be able to make an asylum application and ask an asylum officer to hear your application. That’s supposed to be a non-adversarial interview where you and the officer develop facts and talk about your case and why you think you deserve asylum. If the asylum officer agrees then you’re going to be given asylum and allowed to stay in the United States, get a work authorization card, and eventually get a Green Card. If not, you’re going to be put into removal proceedings and you’re going to have a second chance to demonstrate that you are entitled to asylum, that you should be allowed to stay in the United States because of that persecution.
Asylum cases are not easy. They’re very labor intensive. We spend a lot of time with our clients developing facts. You want to have a lot of evidence corroborating the facts that you alleged in your asylum application. We sometimes use experts who can explain country conditions and what the situation is for people like you back in the home country, and all these things go into play when putting together a strong asylum application.
The last thing to keep in mind is that you want to put everything in at the outset, because if you don’t, your asylum case’s probably going to be denied. And then, if you try to add facts later on, the government is going to accuse you of making things up and that you are not to be trusted. So I would not suggest filing an asylum application on your own. If you do have questions, if you need help, feel free to give us a call 888-782-4469 or give me an email [email protected]. Thanks a lot and we’ll talk to you soon.