Asylum returnCan I Return to My Country After Asylum?

As part of my ongoing series on The Basics of Applying for Asylum, I hope to shed light on common issues that asylum applicants face, and answer common questions they may have.

A common question that many applicants for asylum have is: “Can I Return to My Country After Asylum?”

Answer: There is no simple answer to this question. The short answer is: maybe. Depending on changes in your home countries conditions and environment, and whether or not the conditions which served as your basis for asylum are still ongoing.

Let’s use a simple hypothetical. Ali left his home country of Afghanistan in 1995, based on the fact he and his family were targeted by the Taliban for their political and religious beliefs. Ali was able to document past persecution at the hands of the Taliban, and demonstrated a reasonable fear of future persecution if he were forced to return.  Ali successfully petitions for and obtains asylum in the United States.

Now, in 2014 can Ali return to Afghanistan to visit?

Yes, because the country conditions have changed such that the Taliban are no longer in power, Ali will be able to return to Afghanistan without violating his asylum. As a side note, every country’s situation is complex and there is never a clear cut answer. Even in this example Afghanistan still has some presence of the Taliban within the country, though not in acting as the formal government, such that one could still argue that Ali could fear returning to the country.

A simple counter example would be man who fled Iran to escape political persecution in 1988. Even in 2014, the government in Iran remains sufficiently similar to the government in 1988 such that an asylee who feared governmental persecution could still be at risk.

There are two main points that every asylee should consider in regards to this issue.

If you have obtained your green card, or become a United States citizen, you may be able to freely travel the world without restrictions. Strictly speaking, if you received political asylum in the 1980’s and now are a US Citizen, you should be able to travel back to your home country without immigration consequences. That being said there are ethical implications to consider in this regard.

Individuals who have obtained asylum in the United States or abroad should always act ethnically, particularly if conditions have not changed in their home country. Individuals who travel back home to their own country, not only put themselves at risk, but their actions can have implications for others who are filing for asylum. Their return trip to their home country can undermine the legitimate asylum applications of other individuals, such that they may even be denied asylum based on the fact that so many refugees have traveled back to their home country after obtaining status.

Speaking on personal experience this is a problem for many refugee communities, including Iranians who have obtained asylum in European countries. Many Iranians who obtain asylum travel back to Iran shortly thereafter, and in doing so de-legitimize the asylum process, particularly for those who are in dire need of asylum and truly cannot travel back home.

In short, the decision to travel back to your home county after receiving asylum should not be taken lightly, as it can have widespread implications.  If the country conditions have changed enough such that you are confident your life will no longer be in danger, than there should be no problem. However if you are unsure about this, it is always best to speak to an asylum attorney, in order to assess the potential consequences of your trip, for yourself as well as the refugee community as a whole.

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.