dreamstime_m_62729295People from throughout the world are constantly coming to the U.S. because of the rights and freedoms available to its citizens.  Many of these people file applications for asylum because they are fearful of returning to their native country.  If granted asylum, they will be permitted to lawfully remain in the U.S.  They may also apply for permanent resident status (green card) a minimum of one year after they have been granted asylum.

Grounds for Asylum
A person may be granted asylum if they can prove that they have suffered past persecution or that they fear they will suffer persecution in their home country due to any of the following:
• Race
• Religion
• Nationality
• Membership in a particular social group
• Political opinion

Any person in the United States may submit an application for asylum if they are fearful of returning to their native country.  You do not have to be lawfully residing in the U.S. to seek this benefit and it does not matter how you arrived in the United States.

Persecution
There is no specific definition of persecution.  Rather, it is a fact-specific inquiry that will determine if the past or potential future harm rises to the level of persecution.  It will be determined on a case-by-cases basis, but it typically must be more than simply harassment.

An applicant may be granted asylum based on past persecution alone.  In this instance, they are also presumed to have a well-founded fear of future persecution.

However, even if an applicant has not experienced past persecution, they may still be granted asylum based on a well-founded fear of future persecution.  They must establish that they have a subjective fear of returning to their native country, and also that this fear is objectively reasonable.  Proving subjective fear is obviously easier, as this can be established with an applicant’s truthful, sincere, and compelling testimony.  Proving that this fear is objectively reasonable, on the other hand, is always more challenging.  The applicant must establish that a reasonable person in the applicant’s position would also fear future persecution.  This requires credible, direct, and specific evidence that support a reasonable fear of persecution.

One Year Filing Deadline
An application for asylum must be filed within one year of a person’s arrival in the U.S., unless an exception applies to this one-year filing deadline.  A person who is not eligible for asylum, but who does have a fear of returning to their native country, may nevertheless be eligible to file an application for withholding of removal or for relief under the Convention Against Torture.

An applicant may still be granted asylum if they file their application after they have been in the U.S. for more than one year if they can show either of the following:
• Changed circumstances that materially affect their eligibility for asylum.
• Extraordinary circumstances relating to the delay in filing.

Regardless of which exception a person requests, they must still file their application within a reasonable amount of time given the circumstances.

Required Evidence
A person seeking asylum has the burden of proving that they meet the definition of a refugee.  A refugee is “any person who is outside his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution.”

A person requesting asylum must be prepared to submit substantial documentation proving that they have already suffered persecution or that they have a fear of future persecution.  The starting point of this evidence would be a well-written declaration that is very detailed.  This is an applicant’s opportunity to share their story in their own words.  This declaration should also be supported by additional evidence, which may include medical records resulting from past persecution, newspaper articles discussing hatred towards a particular group, reports from the U.S. Department of State detailing frequent crimes against certain groups of people and the government’s inability or unwillingness to stop them, etc.

The types of evidence will vary from case-to-case, and there is typically not any one specific piece of evidence that is absolutely required.  Rather, the applicant will have to present a variety of evidence that allows them to sufficiently prove their claim.

Family Members
An applicant for asylum may also include their spouse and unmarried, minor children on their application.

Work Authorization
An applicant for asylum may be granted work authorization after their application has been pending for 180 days.  This authorization will be valid for one year, but may be renewed for as long as the application is pending.  In addition, a person who has already been granted asylum, referred to as an “asylee,” is also authorized to work even before they are granted their green card.

Frivolous Asylum Applications
Knowingly submitting a frivolous asylum application is perhaps the most serious immigration-related offense that a person can commit.  If it is found that the application is frivolous, the applicant will be barred from ever receiving any immigration benefits.  Please note that that an application will not be deemed frivolous just because it was denied, even if it was an extremely weak application.  An application will only be deemed to be frivolous if one or more of the material elements is deliberately fabricated.

Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza – Full-Service Immigration Law Firm
It is a terrible feeling believing that you will be harmed because of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.  Nobody should have to live this way!  If you believe that you may be harmed because of one of these factors, please call Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza to discuss a potential application for asylum.  You do not have to live in fear any longer!

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