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How to Qualify for Asylum or Refugee Status in the US

Asylum or refugee status in the United States is reserved for certain classes of immigrants in need of humanitarian assistance or protection from persecution. There is no question that horrible atrocities affect millions of people around the world all the time.  The United States provides protection for those who have fled their home countries because of persecution and are now afraid to return.  Your asylum attorney in NJ can tell you that U.S. immigration law has two categories for these noncitizens: asylum status or refugee status.

Asylum and refugee status are essentially the same thing.  The only difference between the two lies in where the noncitizen is when he or she applies.  Asylum seekers are already inside of the U.S., whereas refugees are still outside the country.

New Jersey Asylum Lawyer Explains Asylum and Refugee Status Basics

U.S. immigration law outlines strict requirements for who qualifies for asylum or refugee status.  To be granted asylum or refugee status, you must prove the following:

  • You were persecuted in your home country in the past; or
  • You have a well-founded fear of future persecution should you return to your home country; AND
  • The persecution was (or will be) because of your national origin, ethnicity, race, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Those granted asylum or entering the U.S. as refugees can apply for a green card a year after their grant of asylum or entry into the U.S.  For refugees, U.S. immigration law requires they apply for permanent residency within one year of entering the country.

You Must Prove Persecution in Your Home Country

As your asylum attorney in Eatontown can explain, in order to qualify for both asylum and refugee status, U.S. immigration law requires past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution in the noncitizen’s home country.  While there is no formal definition of persecution for the purposes of asylum and refugee law, most people have a general idea of what it is. It can include:

  • violence
  • threats
  • injury
  • imprisonment
  • harassment
  • genocide
  • torture
  • denial of human rights
  • political powerlessness

To be granted asylum or refugee status, you must either demonstrate that the persecution you suffered happened in the past or that you have a well-founded fear that it will happen in the future.  While past persecution is more identifiable and certain, given the nature of persecution, it might be difficult to provide physical evidence and records of your experience.  Still, medical records, news reports, organizational membership documentation, affidavits, and personal statements can provide strong evidence of past persecution.

Similarly, to show a well-founded fear of future persecution, your asylum immigration lawyer NJ will want you to plan to provide evidence that demonstrates the current (and likely future) treatment of similarly-situated people in your home country. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of State releases reports about human rights conditions in countries around the globe.  These can be a good starting point in developing an argument of fear of future persecution.  Remember, the fear of future persecution must be well-founded.  That means it cannot be subjective or speculative, but rather must be based on a real threat.

Persecution Must Be “On Account Of” Certain Factors

To qualify for asylum or refugee status, you must demonstrate that the persecution you suffered was “on account of” one of the following:

  • national origin
  • race
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • membership in a particular social group

That is, to meet the legal requirements for asylum or refugee status, you must show that your mistreatment occurred because of one of those five reasons.  If you were persecuted for another reason or for no reason at all, you will not qualify for asylum or refugee status.

Nationality, race, and religion are straightforward.  Membership in a particular social group and political opinion are less self-evident, so let’s look at these categories.

Membership in a particular social group – This category is difficult to define, because it is intentionally drawn broadly.  Race, religion, nationality, and political groups are all also social groups, so this category means something different.  Essentially, members of a particular social group share some common, immutable characteristic that is either unchangeable or highly resistant to change.  That is, members of this category share some defining quality that is essential to their identity.  Women who fear cultural genital mutilation or forced sterilization have qualified for asylum and refugee status in this category, as have homosexuals.

Political Opinion – Like membership in a particular social group, political opinion can be difficult to pinpoint.  Generally, persecution based on political opinion happens to those who actively speak out against governmental regimes or support those who do.  To qualify for asylum or refugee status based on this category, you must show that your persecutor knew about your political opinion.  Generally, your New Jersey asylum attorney can prove this by showing that you joined a political party, attended a demonstration, or wrote and published political literature.  Additionally, some noncitizens have been granted asylum or refugee status based on perceived political opinion, even if they did not actually hold the political opinion for which they were persecuted.

Bars to Asylum or Refugee Status

Even if you can prove that you were persecuted or have a well-founded fear of future persecution in your home country based on a legally identified criteria, your Eatontown asylum lawyers may tell you that you are prohibited from applying for asylum or refugee status.  U.S. immigration law bars the following classes of noncitizens from receiving asylum or becoming refugees:

  • Those who have persecuted others or assisted in the persecution of others – If you assisted in the persecution of other groups of people because of their race, religion, national origin, etc., you may not apply for asylum or refugee status in the U.S. Most commonly this arises in situations where a person has worked to suppress a group that now seeks revenge.  While such an individual might have a well-founded fear of persecution, U.S. immigration law offers no safe harbor.
  • Those who are a threat to the safety of Americans or to U.S. security – If you pose a danger to the United States or to American citizens, you are not eligible to apply for asylum or refugee status. By far the largest number of individuals in this group are those who have terroristic ideologies or belong to groups that support terrorism.
  • Those who are already resettled in another country – If you otherwise meet the qualifications for asylum or refugee status but have already firmly resettled in another country, you will not be permitted to apply for asylum or refugee status in the United States.

Also, your New Jersey asylum lawyer will want you to know that U.S. immigration law requires applicants for asylum to file within one year of their last entry into the country.  If you fail to file within this time period, absent extraordinary circumstances, your application for asylum will be denied.

For More Information, Contact an Eatontown Asylum Lawyer

If you have been subjected to persecution in your home country, you may be eligible for asylum or refugee status.  If you have questions about applying, contact New Jersey asylum attorney Andres Mejer today for a free consultation.

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