Political asylum is an application submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), enabling an applicant to seek protection from persecution in their country of nationality.
An applicant must prove the following:
- That the application has been filed within one year of entry into the United States (there are some exemptions to this rule, but normally this is required).
- That the applicant is in danger of being persecuted in his or her country of nationality on account of race, religious beliefs, political opinion, national origin or membership in a specific social group (for example, women who have been or risk being subjected to forced circumcision or individuals who face persecution due to sexual preference).
- That the applicant has experienced oppression on one of these bases previously or there is a high risk of future persecution on one of these bases.
If approved, political asylum supplies legal status and employment authorization in the United States as well as access to a refugee travel document for international travel.
One year after approval, a person given political asylum can apply to become a lawful permanent resident. Also, after three years and nine months from approval, presuming all good moral character and time requirements have been complied with, the person can apply to become a U.S. citizen.
Persecution is a term without a legal definition in U.S. immigration law. It generally can not be mere harassment or poor circumstance. It must something more, for example, human rights violations, torture, unlawful or political detention, physical violence, or infliction of serious emotional distress.
Threats of harm can also amount to the level of persecution, especially if others similarly situated to an applicant have experienced documented persecution similar to that threatened against an applicant by a similar person.
Economic distress and harassment can also be deemed persecution if factors considered as a whole rise to the level of persecution, even if considered separately the incidents may not be severe enough to qualify.
The actor of the persecution must be one that is either from the government itself, or from an organization or party that the government is unable or unwilling to manage.
Proving this is typically difficult.
Also, an applicant must establish why he or she was specifically targeted by the persecutor. The actions and the actor’s reasons for the persecution must be on one of the protected grounds listed above.
Political asylum is generally not available to someone who cannot prove she or he will be specifically targeted for persecution on the grounds listed above. General strife and unsatisfactory country conditions on their own do not result in an asylum application approval.
An applicant must be willing to verify that he or she has a risk of being specifically targeted for persecution, by whom and on what grounds.
The application is filed with a USCIS regional service center, and is then forwarded to a regional USCIS Asylum Office to be booked for interview. The applicant will go to the interview to reveal to the asylum officer why he or she is afraid to go back to his or her country.
The explanation in the interview must verify other information provided, including the application, any supporting statement and all evidence provided for the applicant to have a chance to succeed.
Typically an answer is not decided at the interview, and the applicant will need to plan to either come again to the office to pick up the decision or the decision may in some cases be mailed.
Reliability is a critical issue in political asylum law and policy in the United States. The person can be successful on his or her statement on its own if it is adequately detailed, plausible and credible.
However, the law also requires an applicant provide documentation that should reasonably be assumed to be obtainable and obtainable. If an adjudicator, either an asylum officer or an immigration judge, finds that reasonably available evidence was not provided, that could be a justification for denial.
If the person does not obtain political asylum, such as because the application was not filed within one year of entry into the United States, there are associated applications that may be considered to seek protection from torture or persecution.
One is withholding of removal, which is only available to people facing deportation from the United States.
The other is relief under the Convention Against Torture. While these both offer protection from deportation and employment authorization, they do not lead to permanent residence. The standard of proof is higher as well. An applicant must establish by a preponderance of the substantiation that the persecution will occur, who will do it and why.
While an application for political asylum can be challenging to win, those facing persecution may find it to be their only option.
About Davis & Associates:
Davis & Associates is the immigration law firm of choice in Miami, FL and surrounding areas. Their attorneys provide expert legal counsel for all aspects of immigration law, including deportation defense, writs of habeas corpus and mandamus, family-sponsored immigration, employment-sponsored immigration, investment immigration, employer compliance, temporary visas for work and college, permanent residence, naturalization, consular visa processing, waivers, and appeals. Attorney Garry L. Davis is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.