How To Seek Asylum to Avoid Deportation & Persecution

How To Seek Asylum to Avoid Deportation & Persecution

Seeking asylum is a way for immigrants to legally remain in the United States if they are facing persecution in their home country. The asylum process can be complicated, but understanding the basic requirements and steps can help immigrants navigate the system.

What is Asylum?

Asylum is a protection granted to foreign nationals who are already in the United States or seeking admission at a port of entry. To qualify for asylum, applicants must meet the definition of a “refugee” by establishing that they have suffered persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution based on:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group
  • Political opinion

If granted asylum, individuals may remain in the U.S. and later apply for lawful permanent resident status and eventually U.S. citizenship. Asylum also allows immediate family members to derive asylum status through the principal applicant.

Types of Asylum Applications

There are two main ways to apply for asylum:

  1. Affirmative asylum: Applying proactively with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 1 year of arriving in the U.S.
  2. Defensive asylum: Applying as a defense against removal after being apprehended by immigration authorities.
Affirmative Asylum Defensive Asylum
  • Apply directly to USCIS using Form I-589 within 1 year of last U.S. arrival
  • If denied, case is referred to immigration court
  • More applicant control over process
  • Apply as defense against deportation in removal proceedings
  • Immigration judge decides case
  • Less applicant control

Eligibility for Asylum

To qualify for asylum, applicants must meet the definition of a refugee by establishing past persecution or a “well-founded fear” of future persecution based on one of the five protected grounds. Some key requirements:

  • Apply within 1 year of last arrival in U.S. (exceptions may apply)
  • Not have certain criminal convictions or security issues
  • Establish identity and nationality

Applicants should gather documents and evidence to support their claim, such as identity documents, country conditions reports, medical records, and affidavits from witnesses. Expert testimony may also be used.

The Asylum Application Process

The specific steps vary slightly depending on affirmative vs. defensive filing. But the general asylum application process includes:

  1. Complete Form I-589: Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal
  2. Attend Biometrics Appointment: Fingerprints and photographs taken
  3. Asylum Interview: Interview with asylum officer; defender files may have court hearings instead
  4. Decision: Approval, denial, or referral to immigration judge if defensive case

The asylum process can take over 5 years in some cases. Applying early and understanding what to expect at each step is important.

Having an experienced immigration attorney to prepare documents and represent the applicant in interviews and hearings greatly improves chances for approval. Non-profit organizations may also be able to provide legal assistance to asylum seekers.

After Getting Asylum

If an asylum application is approved, the asylee and any derivatives may remain in the U.S. indefinitely. Asylees receive refugee travel documents and are authorized to work. After one year, asylees may apply for lawful permanent residence. Five years after receiving a green card, asylees may apply for U.S. citizenship.

Asylees must notify USCIS of any changes in address, marital status, or loss of derivative status. Asylum status may be revoked if the asylee commits certain crimes, obtains permanent residence in another country, or if country conditions change substantially.

Seeking asylum is often the only way for immigrants to legally remain in the U.S. if facing persecution in their home countries. Understanding the requirements, gathering supporting evidence, and working with an experienced attorney are key to successfully navigating the complex asylum process.