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Asylum serves as a crucial safeguard for immigrants who are fleeing past persecution, or are in legitimate fear of future persecution in their home country. Whether they are fleeing discrimination based on ethnicity or religion, or a political conflict for many individuals, obtaining asylum is a real matter of life or death.

What follows is a basic overview of the requirements for qualifying for Asylum in the United States.

1. Meeting the eligibility requirements

The first and primary requirements for applying for asylum is to meet the legal requirements. Eligibility for Asylum depends on an individuals ability to demonstrate that they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to:

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

This includes individuals who have been targeted  based on their gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.

2. Presence in the United States.

The first requirement to apply is presence in the United States. You cannot apply for asylum for the United States while abroad. You may file for asylum regardless of what your immigration status is, or whether you entered the country legally or illegally.  You may declare Asylum at any port of entry in the United States, or file an I-589 Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.

3. File within one year of entry.

An Asylum application must be filed within the first year of entering the United States. This strict requirement, unless you are able to prove that there are changed circumstances which materially affect your eligibility for asylum. This can include a change of government in your home country, or other changes which place you at grave risk should you be forced to return. Individuals who can demonstrate extraordinary circumstances directly related to your failure to file within one year, are also eligible for an exception. This includes issues like a serious illness or disability which made filing within the first year difficult.

4. Ensure that you do not face any bars.

There are a number of issues which may affect your ability to obtain Asylum. If an individual is found to have committed any of these actions they may be barred from receiving Asylum. This includes not filing within the first year of entry as required, having an previous Asylum application denied by an Immigration Judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals. Individuals may also face a bar if they have engaged in past persecution of others, been a member of a terrorist organization, or if you have been committed of a “particularly serious crime.”

See a full list of bars at USCIS

5. Be honest and accurate 

It is essential that you are honest and accurate in the information that you provide in your asylum application and interview. Not only is your credibility a crucial factor in receiving asylum, but you may do irreparable damage to your application if you are found to be lying. Even if you were not truthful when entering the United States, and used false papers it is important to tell the complete truth and disclose everything in your asylum application.  This includes the fact that you entered the US illegally or if you have been detained or arrested by immigration in the past.

Not only is it important to tell the truth for your own asylum application, but lying in order to obtain asylum can have consequences for others as well. Some individuals obtain asylum and then travel back to their home country shortly thereafter. This not only delegitimatizes the status of the person who was granted asylum, but it may make things tougher for those who seek to obtain asylum from that country in the future, including those who may face serious harm. Asylum should be reserved for those who are fleeing legitimate persecution or face real danger.

This is general information and is not intended as legal advice. Individuals filing for Asylum should obtain legal assistance from a private attorney or non-profit. If you have any question contact an Asylum Attorney or send Hamid Yazdan Panah an email using the contact form below.