You can apply for asylum in the US if you have a “well-founded fear” of persecution in your home country based on your political opinion, religion, race, nationality, or membership in a particular social group. If you are able to show that you suffered past persecution, a presumption arises that you have established a well-founded fear of persecution in the future. If you establish that you were persecuted in the past, the government must demonstrate that circumstances have changed and that you no longer have a well-founded fear of persecution or that you could avoid persecution by relocating to a different part of your home country and that it would be reasonable for you to do so.
If you are not in removal (deportation) proceedings, you can submit an application for asylum directly with the appropriate USCIS Service Center. If your application is denied, and you were in lawful status when you filed, you will remain in lawful status unless such status has expired or is otherwise terminated in which case you would be placed into removal proceedings.
Whether you are placed into removal proceedings after your asylum application is denied by USCIS, or whether you are in removal proceedings and have not yet filed an asylum application, your asylum application should be filed with the Immigration Judge having jurisdiction over your case. In removal proceedings, in addition to applying for asylum, you may be eligible to apply for withholding of removal and for relief under the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT).
You will be ineligible for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under CAT if the government can establish that you “firmly resettled” in a third country. You must apply for asylum within one year of arriving to the U.S., although there are certain exceptions to this rule.
Once your asylum application has been pending for over 150 days, you may apply for employment authorization. If you prevail on your asylum claim, you can petition for your spouse and children who may be outside of the U.S. You can apply for lawful permanent residence one year after being granted asylum.
The information above provides a general overview of the procedures for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under CAT, and is not intended as legal advice. These are complex areas of immigration law and you should complete a confidential consultation with our attorneys to discuss your claim for asylum and the best strategy for your unique case.