The U.S. government offers humanitarian assistance to individuals who seek shelter from persecution in their home country. Asylum allows a foreign national to stay in the United States indefinitely and provided the opportunity to work and apply for a green card.
An asylum seeker needs to prove that he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution based on one or more of the following five grounds:
- Political opinion
- Membership in a specific social group, such as the LGBTQ community
Persecution, in this particular instance, is considered mistreatment which is inflicted either directly by the government cannot, or by individuals whom the government cannot or will not control. This means to harass, injure, oppress, punish, or otherwise cause someone to suffer physical or psychological harm.
Applying for Asylum Status
How you apply for asylum status depends on whether you are at a U.S. border or entry point, such as an airport, or already in the country.
If you’re at the U.S. border or airport and have a valid visa or entry document, you can use that for asylum without raising any issues. If, on the contrary, the U.S. officials do not allow you to enter the country, you can explain that you fear returning to your home country and request to apply for asylum.
Next, you may be placed in a detention facility while you wait to be sent to a “credible fear” hearing with a USCIS asylum officer, which typically occurs within a day or two. Keep in mind, the officer is only there determine if you truly seem to be scared of persecution and deserve to have to judge hear your case--not approve your request for asylum.
If you convince the asylum officer that you have a credible fear of persecution, you will receive the opportunity to see an Immigration Judge (IJ) and convince him or her that you qualify for asylum in the United States. If the officer doesn’t believe you have enough to make a successful asylum case, you will be deported from the U.S., unless you ask an IJ to reconsider your circumstances.
If you do, the judge needs to make a decision within seven days. If the IJ disagrees with the asylum officer and believes you have enough evidence for a successful asylum case, you will have a chance to prove it in immigration court. If, however, the judge agrees with the officer, you will be deported without any opportunity to appeal.
On the other hand, if you successfully make through a border or entry point and into the country, you will have up to a year to apply for asylum and start the process. You must first fill out USCIS Form I-589 and mail it to USCIS along with other documents you will be required to provide. A detailed affidavit, which contains specific facts that you need to be prepared to orally explain, is also included.
Other documents which may back up your claim include:
- Newspaper article about your arrest
- Medical records showing injuries sustained from being beaten or tortured
- A group membership card
- Conditions in the country you fled from
Then you will be scheduled to attend an interview, along with your attorney, at the USCIS asylum office to determine if your case will be seen in immigration court. The wait for asylum interview exceeds two years.
Due to the complexities of the immigration system regarding asylum, it is critical to seek legal representation from an experienced immigration attorney. Our Santa Barbara immigration lawyer at Appel & Morse have more than 40 years of collective experience helping individuals like yourself overcome the legal obstacles.