How To Seek Asylum, And Where To Do It

It’s no secret that turmoil has enveloped many communities and even whole countries in recent years, leaving people with few options. For many who are affected by issues in their home country, the best course of action may be to leave and seek asylum. 

Asylum is protected by the United States and the United Nations, and thousands of people successfully seek asylum in the country every year. For those looking for help, understanding the asylum system is crucial for successfully gaining asylum status. 

At the Law Offices of Anable & Rivera, we understand how important asylum can be for people and families seeking a safer, more prosperous life. In this blog, we discuss the entire process from beginning to end so you can be confident during the asylum-seeking process. 

Asylum: The Basics 

People who are seeking asylum from inside the U.S or at a port of entry are referred to as asylees. Asylees are people who meet the international definition of a refugee, which states: 

a person with a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. 

If you seek asylum or protection from outside of the U.S, you are referred to as a refugee. 

How Do You Know If You Qualify? 

The main metric for qualifying for asylum is indicating a “well-founded fear” that constitutes you leaving your country. There are few strict rules that determine what constitutes “well-rounded fear of persecution”, which largely hinges on persecution. 

According to the USCIS, there are five levels of persecution: 

  • Serious physical harm; 
  • Coercive medical or psychological treatment; 
  • Invidious prosecution or disproportionate punishment for a criminal offense; 
  • Severe discrimination and economic persecution;
  • Severe criminal extortion or robbery 

If the type of persecution that seeks to avoid fits the criteria for one or more of these types of persecution, you will likely qualify for asylum. This by no means will guarantee that your asylum request will be accepted, but this precondition must be met to qualify. 

According to the USCIS, you may be barred from seeking asylum if you: 

  • Ordered, incited, assisted, or participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion
  • Were convicted of a serious crime (including aggravated felonies)
    Committed a serious nonpolitical crime outside the United States
  • Pose a danger to the security of the United States
  • Were firmly resettled in another country prior to arriving in the United States

Affirmative Asylum & Defensive Asylum 

If you meet the basic criteria for asylum, you will need to apply under either affirmative or defensive asylum. 

Affirmative asylum is the process of applying for asylum within the U.S (within a year of arriving) or at a port of entry. Affirmative asylum is the most conventional way that people apply for asylum. A USCIS officer will overlook the application and make the final determination on asylum. 

Defensive asylum, by contrast, is an application of asylum as a defense against removal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. The asylee will apply for defensive asylum in immigration court, where the judge will determine whether the asylee is granted asylum. 

Defensive asylum requests are typically less successful than affirmative asylum requests, so it’s important to have an affirmative asylum request if at all possible. 

Family Members & Asylum 

Often, when people seek asylum, there is a request to bring family members as well, like a spouse or children. If the child or children are under the adult age, you can include them in your application. You must prove your relationship to those being added to your application through reliable documentation. 

The Importance Of Legal Representation 

While it is true that it is possible to be granted asylum without legal representation, the chances are incredibly low. Less than 10% of asylum claims without legal representation are successful, while over half of claims with representation are approved. With asylum claim approval declining over the past few years, it’s important that you put yourself in the best position to succeed. 

If you or someone you know will be in need of legal assistance for your asylum application/case, the Law Offices of Anable & Rivera can help. We have decades of experience in the field and can help you and your family as you seek asylum or other services.