Political asylum is granted by the U.S. government to people who can prove that they are afraid to return to their home country because they have a “well-founded fear of persecution.” People may also be granted political asylum if they left their home country because they were persecuted in the past.
A person who is not in removal proceedings can apply affirmatively for asylum before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In some circumstances, USCIS will refer the case to an immigration judge. A person in removal proceedings who has never before filed for asylum can also file for asylum for the first time before the Immigration Judge.
Individuals who apply for asylum affirmatively must appear for an initial interview before a USCIS asylum officer. If the application for asylum is not approved, the applicant’s case goes before an immigration judge and he or she will have another opportunity to prove that the fear is “well-founded.”
In general, the applicant must convince the asylum officer or immigration judge that he or she truly believes he or she is in danger, or demonstrate that he or she suffered past persecution. The individual must have good reasons for this belief and should attempt to show that that someone else in his or her position would also be afraid. There must be independent, verifiable documentary evidence that shows the validity of the fear of persecution in the home country or that the individual has been persecuted in the past.
Persecution can mean that the applicant has been or may be hurt, kidnapped, detained, jailed, tortured, threatened, killed, or beaten, or that freedom was or will be taken away in other ways. The persecutor can be the government (army, police, soldiers, elected officials, death squads, or others), or any group that the government cannot or will not control. The persecution must be because of one of the following five reasons:
- Membership in a particular social group, or
- Political opinion.
If an individual is granted asylum, he or she can remain in the U.S. and is authorized for employment. An asylee can apply for a lawful permanent residence a year after having received the grant of asylum.