Are you in fear of persecution in your home country because of your race, religion or membership in a social group? Do you fear future persecution in your home country because of your political views or membership in a particular social group?
If you’ve answered “Yes” to either question above, you may be able to seek political asylum in the United States. Every year, people come to the U.S. to escape present or future persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or their political opinion. In 1981, the U.S. passed the Refugee Act enabling the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to grant political asylum or refugee status to those who fear persecution in their home country. According to a New York Times article (J. Preston, 9/30/10), the U.S. granted asylum in more than 22,000 cases in 2009. However, in 2015, the EOIR granted 8,246 asylums.
WHAT IS POLITICAL ASYLUM?
Political asylum is a form of protection available to people already present in the U.S. This is for people who are afraid of returning to their home country because of actual persecution, or who have a well-founded fear of actual persecution because of their:
Membership in a particular social group; or,
If you are still in your home country, and the above applies to you, you may be able to get refugee status, instead of asylee status. In other words, a “refugee” is a person who is living outside the U.S. and intends to enter the U.S. because he or she fears persecution in his or her home country, due to the above-mentioned grounds. Those eligible for political asylum or refugee status can become lawful permanent residents after the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the Immigration Judge approves their cases.
WHO CAN APPLY FOR ASYLUM?
Individuals of any nationality must request political asylum at a U.S. port of entry (airport, seaport, or border crossing), or file for it within one (1) year of arriving in the U.S. You will not be eligible for asylum if you participated in the persecution of others or if you have “firmly resettled” in another country. If you entered the U.S. on a valid visa, the time you spent in the U.S. with that visa does not count as part of the one (1) year period.
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