Asylum Immigration

Am I a Refugee Or an Asylee?

These are words that have specific immigration legal meaning that often get people confused.  In general, if your country is in crisis, you leave it, and you seek help and protection from the United Nations, you are refugee and, after a long screening and evaluation process, you can be resettled in a wide variety of countries throughout the world. Unfortunately, you don’t get to pick which country you’ll be resettled in.

More specifically, you are also a refugee when you have been persecuted in your home country because you fit in one or more of the five protected grounds, see below, and you flee your home country to avoid further or future persecution, and you seek protection from another government.  Each government has its own processes and procedures for handling refugees seeking such protection.  However, when you flee your home country and come to the United States seeking help and protection, you are a refugee but the immigration process you’ll apply for here is asylum.

What are the Five Protected Grounds?

The five protected grounds were established in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a United Nations agreement. In order to become a refugee, you must have been persecuted on account of your race, nationality, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Persecution means you have suffered repeated threats, harassment, physical violence, psychological violence, detention, or other related treatment.

  • Race means persecution on account of your skin color or ethnicity.
  • Nationality means persecution based on the country you were born in or country you live in, most likely if you are an ethnic minority in your current or home country, or the country in which you hold citizenship.
  • Religious persecution means not being able to practice your religion openly, being forced to convert, or your religious practice being otherwise interfered with.
  • Political opinion means you might not agree with your government and its policies, belong to a government opposition party, or don’t agree with an armed group that has taken control of your country.
  • Membership in a particular social group means you may not fall into any of the above, but have faced persecution because of something else. Often times this could be based on your sexual orientation, your gender, you are against Female Genital Mutilation, you have experienced domestic violence, you are a former gang member, people with disabilities, former witnesses and informants, and many others. Just because you don’t qualify for one of the first four protected grounds, does not mean that you automatically qualify for member to a particular social group. Membership to a particular social group is complicated, but that doesn’t mean you don’t qualify.

File Your Petition Within One Year

In addition to the being able to show you’ve been persecuted or will to be persecuted if returned to your home country, you must submit your application within one (1) year of your last arrival to the US. This is a general rule that allows for some exceptions but even these exceptions have limitations. One typical, technical exception is when the deadline falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday. If that happens, then the application will be accepted as timely filed on the next business day.

A substantive exception is when you are facing a change in circumstances that materially changes your eligibility. An example of this might be as follows: You were a member of the ABC party that opposes your home country’s restriction on the freedom of speech. In December, 2011, you were jailed and questioned. That scared you enough to stop your participation in the ABC party and you fled to the US. You came to the US in February, 2012, but filed your application for asylum in June, 2012. This is beyond the one-year deadline. Now, let’s look at this: after you applied for asylum, ABC party members were not only being jailed and questioned, but you can show fellow party members are now being beaten or killed. This could be a material change in circumstances that could excuse your not meeting the one-year deadline.

Another important exception to the one-year rule is to show you experienced an extraordinary circumstance that caused you to miss the deadline. By definition, this event must have occurred prior to your one-year deadline and be significant enough to cause you to miss such an important the deadline. An example would be a serious illness or mental or physical disability that occurred during that one-year period. Also, effects from persecution or violent harm suffered in the past could qualify as well if those effects were present during at least part of the one-year period after arrival.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

Asylum through the US immigration system is a very difficult, complicated, and long process. First, you have to prove to the US government that you have been persecuted because of one (or more) of the five grounds mentioned above. Second, you have to show that your home country’s government cannot and will not protect you. Third, you must show that you cannot move somewhere else in your home country because nowhere is safe. Lastly, you have to show that you have what’s called a “well-founded fear of persecution.” This is partly proving you have experienced persecution in the past and that the persecution will continue if you are sent back home.

US Asylum law is very complex and the majority of people asking for asylum have struggle to understand what is needed to prove they have been persecuted, or what persecution even is. For example, many people have been persecuted and don’t even know it. Also, there are many documents you must submit as your proof or documentation of your experiences. You cannot submit just any old document; only certain documents will be seen as adequate, sufficient, and legitimate. You must also submit a personal statement. A personal statement that is only one page, handwritten, or not specific and detailed enough is not going to be sufficient and it will not help your plea for help.

Why You Need Us for Your Asylum Petition

The team at Swenson Law Office, PC, knows and understands the current state of US asylum law, what documents you can and cannot submit, what protected ground you qualify for, how to take a personal statement, and how to properly submit an asylum application following all the rules. For this reason, it is much better for your future and the future of your family members to work with an attorney who has the experience and knowledge to prepare and submit your application on your behalf.  If you invest in your future by hiring an attorney, your chances of getting an approval increase by almost double, if not more, if you use an attorney.

Contact us and let’s talk about your situation, determine whether you qualify, and move forward together to get you the approval you need to stay alive, build a new life in a new country, and live your life to the fullest!