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WYRWTK | Episode # 21 | What is asylum? Am I eligible to apply?


Hi, I’m Attorney Shaffer. Today on “What You Really Want to Know,” We answer the question, “What is asylum and am I eligible to apply?” 

Asylum is a legal protection that allows certain foreign nationals who fear persecution to remain lawfully in the United States forever.  There are important immigration benefits that come with a grant of asylum, and I will get to those shortly. First, let’s take a closer look at the eligibility requirements for asylum.

To be eligible, you must meet the legal definition of a refugee. 

A refugee is someone who has a fear of past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of a protected ground by a group that the government is unable or unwilling to control.

That is quite the mouthful! So let’s break that definition down by going through the list of questions we would ask if you came and met with us and said that you were afraid to return home and wanted to file for asylum.

  1. Why are you afraid to return home?

  • The purpose of this question is to see if your fear is due to past persecution you suffered or future persecution that you will suffer if you return.  I will ask you to describe in detail any harm you suffered, or if you haven’t suffered any harm yet, why you feel that you will suffer harm if you return. Because not all harm is serious enough to be persecution. 

    • So, what is persecution?

    • It is generally defined as the infliction of suffering or harm, or a serious threat to your life or freedom.  Mere harassment or annoyance is not enough. Some examples of persecution are death threats, constant surveillance, torture or unjust imprisonment.

 2. Who are you afraid of?

  • Your persecutor has to be the government or a group the government is unable or unwilling to control.  

  • This group also has to be able to find you even if you relocate somewhere else inside your country. If there is anywhere in your country that you can live and be safe from this group, then you will not qualify for asylum.

3.  Why will this group persecute you?

  • To qualify for asylum, you must be persecuted on account of 1 or more of the following grounds: 

    •  political opinion

    • religion

    • race

    • nationality, or 

    • membership in a particular social group.  

4.  When did you enter the United States? 

If you are granted asylum, you will be able to file for a green card 1 year later, and four years after that you will be able to file for citizenship.

Asylum law is very complicated.  It is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney [hopefully] BEFORE you file your asylum application, but if you are in removal proceedings, especially.  

If you need help filing for asylum or if you are in removal proceedings, contact us today!

That is all for this episode of, “What You Really Want to Know.” Thanks for watching!