Did you come to the United States to escape threat of detention, abuse, assault, death, physical injury, restrictions on your freedom or other harm perpetrated by your government? Do you believe you would face persecution by your government if you returned to your home country? Is this harm based upon your position in a certain protected class? If so, you may qualify for asylum in the United States.

The United States offers asylum to people who have suffered government persecution or have a reasonable fear of persecution in their homeland on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. U.S. Immigration laws recognize that sending someone back into this dangerous situation would be inhumane.

Follow U.S. immigration procedures to avail yourself and your family of the right to asylum.

Application for Asylum

The important first step in applying for asylum is declaring you are the victim of persecution. You may do so if detained at the airport or otherwise identified by immigration officials. You may also declare your right to asylum by filing an application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If you are determined to be eligible for asylum you may be permitted to remain and work in the country while your application is pending. You have one year to file form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, to stay deportation proceedings. If you miss the one-year deadline, you must show good cause for doing so. There is no fee for filing your application for asylum and your spouse and children can be included on your application.

You cannot apply for the right to work at the same time you apply for asylum. To request work authorization, you must wait until 150 days after you applied for asylum if you haven’t yet been denied or approved. You can then file form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Once your asylum application is approved, you are immediately entitled to work.

Proof of Persecution

You must support your application with evidence. Of course, collecting evidence from a dangerous country you fled may be tough. You likely left many of your belongings behind, and may have specifically left any documents that could put your life and safety in jeopardy if you were searched while fleeing. Obtaining those documents now may be impossible.

If you do not have direct evidence of persecution, you can present evidence that your country persecutes individuals in a protected class and evidence of your membership in that class. For example, you can include U.S. State Department reports, investigations by rights’ organizations, news reports and expert testimony in your application.

You must also demonstrate your membership in the protected class. For example, a rabbi, Imam or minister can testify to their faith if they are applying based on religious persecution. You can describe your acts of protests if applying based on your political opinions. You might present evidence that your status as a woman or your lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity is membership in a particular social group.

*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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