How to Apply for Asylum in the
United States

(Getting a Refugee Visa USA)

Asylum_00

The first thing to know about asylum immigration in the United States is whether or not you can qualify for asylum. A person who has a successful claim will fall into one of several categories. The US grants asylum to those who are persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. “Persecuted” means that you have been physically harmed, economically harmed, wrongfully imprisoned, psychologically tortured, or denied other basic human or civil rights.  It is generally not enough to claim asylum based on economic hardship alone, as is the case for many of those arriving from central america. Although it is still possible to claim asylum based on persecution by gang violence or domestic violence.

Classifications of Asylum Seekers

You can file a claim for political asylum in the USA based on your race, ethnicity, or religion. To do so, you should try to prove that you have been individually targeted due to your membership in a particular ethnic or religious group. Although, you can also qualify if your country has implemented laws or policies that deny basic human rights or even civil rights to your specific race, ethnicity, or religion “Religion” includes all religions and sects, even minor religions and not just major world religions. Atheism is not considered a religion, although atheists can file successful asylum claims on other grounds. Your asylum application must prove that there is a relationship between your race, ethnicity, or religion and the persecution you have experienced in your home country. In other words, you must prove that your persecution was solely because of your race, ethnicity, or religion.

You can also apply for asylum if you are being persecuted for your political opinion. This occurs usually when the political refugee has been an active participant in a minority political party. The most obvious cases occur when the political refugee has been imprisoned or tortured because of his or her political activities or beliefs. But some may qualify even if their ‘political opinion’ was to express no opinion at all, against the disapproval of one or several political groups. If you think that you have been persecuted.

Lastly, you can apply for asylum in the USA if you are a member of a particular social group. A particular social group is defined as a group of people that share a “common, immutable” trait. This trait could really be anything that a country’s government or majority class views as some kind of threat or reason to discriminate against the social group.  Examples of a ‘social group’ can include members of a particular family, in some cases being of a certain gender, and even in some cases a common past experience. However, the social group cannot be defined by the type of harm from which the refugee seeks asylum.  And the social groups who qualify vary from home country to home country. If you think you might qualify based on your membership in any social group, you should speak to an experienced immigration attorney who can help you determine your claim.

How to Apply for Asylum

There are two ways to begin an asylum application under United States immigration laws. The best way is to be admitted to the United States by way of a different visa, such as a visitor or student visa, and then file an asylum application once you have arrived on that different type of visa. It is highly recommended that those seeking asylum attempt this route. Those who can first enter the US on a different type of visa will be able to file what is known as an affirmative asylum application, and have their case heard first with USCIS in front of an asylum officer instead of an immigration judge. Keep in mind, you must file your asylum application within one year of arriving in the United States, and this is a very strict deadline.  This is VERY important!

If it is not possible for you to get a US visa, you can either try to get to a US border or port of entry, or apply for refugee status with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). A high number of refugees apply with UNHCR and there is no guarantee that the agency will resettle you in the United States, although generally you will be sent to a safe country if you are accepted.

If you can come to the US border or to any US airport and present yourself to the customs officer, you can tell them that you would like a ‘credible fear’ interview. But keep in mind that if you do not pass the interview, you could be placed into removal proceedings in front of an immigration judge. If you ask for a credible fear interview, you will likely be placed in a detention center until you can be interviewed by an asylum officer. You are allowed to have a lawyer come to the interview with you at your own expense. If you pass the interview, you will be released into the United States while your asylum application pends. Make sure to keep USCIS updated on any changes of address and how to get mail to you. If you miss your hearing date, you will be placed into removal proceedings.

It is highly recommended that you speak with a US attorney before attempting any of these methods for claiming asylum. Also, avoid “Notarios” and fraudsters by making sure that the attorney you speak to is licensed to practice law in at least one US state. Notarios often do not know the law very well and make mistakes on paperwork that lead to devastating consequences for their clients.

Make sure to prepare financially the best you can before leaving your home country. Before January 1, 2018, it was possible to apply for permission to work in the United States as soon as you filed your asylum claim, but now you must wait six months to file, and then approximately another six months for the work application to process. Cost of living in the US is high, and year is a very long time to not be able to work. You should try to save money to live in the United States and pay your lawyer’s fees and application fees before you leave your home country.

Although it may be difficult, someone seeking a refugee visa USA should begin preparing for the claim as much as possible while still in his or her home country. You should bring with you documentation of your persecution, such as arrest records for political activity or medical records from physical harm. It may help to have letters or statements from witnesses who can testify to your persecution and the reasons you are persecuted. Save any written threats that you receive and any other physical evidence of your persecution.

It takes a very long time for asylum applications to process. You will be able to work in the United states generally one year after your application is submitted. Once your application is approved, you will have what is known as “permanent residency” and you will receive a Green Card.

*** The Trump administration has testified to the house judiciary committee that it has implemented new rules that require those who are seeking asylum at  the US southern border to wait in Mexico while their applications pend. The Mexican Government has allowed these refugees to temporarily stay in Mexico and seek work authorization there on humanitarian grounds. This requirement will likely be challenged legally, watch the news for updates on the law.