The United States is home to several people of different origin. The country recognizes the right of individuals to apply for asylum in order to legally live and earn a living as specified by federal and international laws.
Currently, thousands of legally defined refugees are admitted annually to the US. They either apply for asylum while in the US or refugee while in their home country. More refugees have found a home in the US since World War ll than any other countries of the World and since 1980; over 2 million refugees have arrived in the US. The number of people whose asylum has been granted in the United States between 2005 to 2007 was above 40,000 annually.
This figure can be compared with about 25,000 per year in Canada and 30,000 in the United Kingdom. From 1998 to 2007, the US alone accounted for about 10% of the total asylum-seeker acceptances across the OECD countries. Three basic requirements must be fulfilled before asylum application can be granted. Firstly, the applicant must establish the fact that he/she fears prosecution from his/her country of origin. Secondly, the applicant must prove that one of the following would be a ground to be prosecuted:
- Political opinion
- Specific social group
Thirdly, asylum seekers must prove that the government of his/her country of origin is involved in the persecution. In view of this, this article will take a look at the application process of asylum in the US, and also highlight the eligibility criteria for those interested in seeking asylum.
WHAT IS ASYLUM?
According to the Oxford dictionary, asylum can be defined as an inviolable place of refuge where debtors and criminals can seem protection.
Asylum may be granted to those that are already in the United States and are unable to return to their country home for fear of being prosecuted due to nationality, religion, race or political affiliation. If you apply for asylum and your application is granted, you can live and work in the US. A year after your application was granted, you can apply for a permanent residence.
Refuge and asylum status are somehow related.
The major distinction between these two is the application process. The process of applying for asylum is done by individuals who are already in the US. Refugee application, on the other hand, is done by those outside the US but willing to live and work in the country. How, before an individual can apply for asylum, he/she must have met the qualification of being regarded as a refugee, else the application will be declined.
ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA TO APPLY FOR ASYLUM IN THE US-
You can apply for asylum when you are already in the US within one year of your arrival or at the point of entry into the country. You can also apply regardless of your Immigration status.
Your asylum application would be declined if;
- You file your application after staying in the US illegally for more than one year, although you may be exempted provided you show the following;
○ Circumstances affecting your asylum eligibility criteria or
○ An extraordinary circumstances causing the delay in application
- Regardless of the above circumstances, you still have to apply for asylum within a reasonable time frame.
The circumstances that may affect your asylum eligibility criteria may include the following;
- Changes in conditions in your nationality.
- Changes in applicable US laws before entering the country
- The loss of your spouse or parent-child relationship provided you were previously included as a dependent in a pending asylum application.
- Marriage, death, divorce, as well as attainment of 21 years.
Extraordinary circumstances may include the following;
- Physical disability, serious illness or mental disability upon arrival in the US.
- Legal disability like your status as an unaccompanied minor
- A violent harm suffered in the past upon arriving in the US within the first one year of your stay.
Ineffective assistance of counsel, if;
- You approach a court of competent Jurisdiction explaining to the court the agreement you had with your lawyer, as well as, what your lawyer promised to do for you
- You have intimated the accused lawyer and the lawyer has been given ample time to respond.
- You clearly indicate the complaint filed against the lawyer with the appropriate disciplinary authorities about the lawyer’s violation.
- A Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was granted to you
- Lawful immigrant
- Non-immigrant status
- You obtain parole until a period you will be able to apply for asylum
- USCIS rejected your first application after filing it within one year of your arrival in the US. USCIS returned your application for corrections
- The sudden death of your lawyer or a close family member.
HOW TO APPLY FOR ASYLUM-
The following are the procedures to apply for asylum in the United States;
- To apply for asylum in the US, visit the USCIS website via uscis.gov
- Fill and complete “Form l-589”
- Also, fill the application for asylum form and the withholding of removal form
- Once submitted, the agency will consider your application in its merit.
ASYLUM ELIGIBILITY BARS-
An asylum applicant may either be barred from applying or from being granted asylum. Asylum eligibility bars also applies to individuals who have met the conditions of a refugee. There are 6 six why asylum application can be barred.
- If the applicant persecutes others due to race, nationality, religious belief, participation in a social group or political affiliation, he/she would be ineligible to apply for asylum.
- If an applicant was convicted by a court of competent Jurisdiction for involvement in serious crimes upon arrival in the US, he/she won’t be eligible to apply for asylum as it were. Applying for asylum after the said conviction either inside or outside the United States also triggers the bar
- If there are established serious non-political cases committed by the applicant prior to his/her arrival in the United States, asylum application will be barred in this circumstance.
- If an applicant is perceived to be an “enemy to the security apparatus of the US”, he/she will be ineligible to apply for asylum.
- If an applicant is inadmissible by the US on the grounds of terrorism, then such an applicant is ineligible to apply for asylum.
- Finally, this bar is regarded as the “firm resettlement bar.” If the asylum seekers are firmly resettled in other countries before arriving in the United States, his/her application may be barred. In other words, if the applicant has been offered a permanent residence in a third country before arriving in the US, the applicant’s application will be denied. The United States government would bear the burden of firmly resettling the applicants.
WAYS TO APPLY FOR ASYLUM-
Generally, there are two ways to apply for asylum in the United States – Affirmative and Defensive.
- Affirmative Asylum: This is a situation whereby an asylum applicant files an application outside the context of removal proceedings. This process involves interview after which the application will be granted if the interview was successful. However, the applicant may appeal if he/she wasn’t successful in the application process.
- Defensive asylum: This is a situation whereby the asylum seeker decides to defend him or herself in removal proceedings. If the application is granted, this process will prevent him/her from being removed.
MEANING OF REFUGEES-
For an asylum seeker to apply for asylum, he/she will have to qualify as a refugee. In this context, the definition of a refugee is as follows;
- The applicant must live outside his/her country of residence. If the applicant is Stateless, the last country which he/she resided will be considered.
- The individual must be unwilling or unable to return to his/her country of origin or the last country of residence if he/she is Stateless.
- If the applicant is being persecuted by his/her state government based on race, religion, participation in a social group, nationality, and political opinion.
It is important to understand the 5 grounds which an applicant can leverage to seek for asylum in the US. Asylum in the US is not a criterion for anybody seeking refuge from his/her home country. The applicant must meet the 5 conditions for refugee before been granted a refugee status. Instead, asylum is designed to protect those that genuinely seek protection from government persecution based on the above-listed grounds. In addition, the applicant must prove that his/her home country cannot protect him/her from persecution. Plus, evidence to show that the persecutor is their state government or a group within the state which the government cannot control.
ASYLUM EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION
The process of obtaining asylum takes ample time for everything to materialize. Once an asylum seeker lodge an application and it is pending for 150 days, the applicant may seek for employment authorization. However, this provision is only applicable under certain classes and individual such as “ABT Settlement Agreement.” Regardless of the situation, you should consult an immigration lawyer regarding employment authorization for a professional advice.
An application is considered frivolous if any part of the application is fabricated or invalid. At any point in time that an asylum seeker files a frivolous application, he/she may be permanently barred from enjoying the privilege granted under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Therefore, when filing for asylum, ensure that your documents are valid and that you fill the correct details in the application form. The government of US seriously frowns at frivolous applications and may impose tighter punishment on offenders.
APPLICANT ASYLUM STATUS BENEFIT AND TERMINATION
If asylum has been granted to an applicant, his/her spouse or children are entitled to derivative asylum benefit. An individual on asylum status also have the right to seek employment and can travel abroad upon the approval of the US government. Asylum can be terminated on the ground that the asylee has been found not to meet the definition of a refugee.
GUIDANCE TO ASYLUM APPLICATION
Before you commence the asylum application process, it is important that you consult an experienced Immigration lawyer. The Immigration lawyer will consider your case in its merit. The lawyer knows all the applicable laws regarding the removal of withholding or protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
The asylum application process is highly complicated and tedious; therefore you need to collaborate with the Immigration lawyer to provide you with all professional assistance possible. The Immigration lawyer can also assist you in future to adjust your Immigration status.