There are many different ways in which immigrants from other countries can come to the United States legally, and asylum is one route. It is important to understand that political asylum is different from many other ways of legally residing in the United States. To be eligible for political asylum, you must be seeking protection from actual persecution or fear of persecution in your country of origin.
Our dedicated immigrant rights lawyers in Tennessee are here to help with your political asylum case. At Ozment Law, we can assist you at every stage of the process to give you the best chance of obtaining asylum and working toward permanent residency.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) explains that political asylum is one pathway into the United States for individuals from other countries who have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution based on one of the following characteristics:
- Membership in a particular social group; and/or
- Political opinion.
For example, a person might seek political asylum in the United States because she is a Muslim, and Muslims are being targeted in her home country. Or, a person might seek political asylum here because she holds political views that are in opposition to the current government in her country, and individuals with her political views have been persecuted.
To apply for political asylum in the United States, you must file a Form I-589, which is an “Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.” You may file for asylum even if you are not in immigration court. You must file this form within one year from the date you arrived in the United States. You do not have to pay a fee. If you have a spouse or children in the United States, you can include them on the application. To prevail, the applicant must prove that he or she has a “well-founded fear” of persecution. Ozment Law can help prepare your asylum application so that it has the best chances for success, including retaining expert witnesses to help corroborate your claim, if necessary.
You may be able to work in the United States once you have asylum, but you cannot apply for both asylum and employment authorization at the same time. Instead, you must apply for asylum first, and then the following must be true in order to apply for employment authorization:
- At least 150 days have passed since you filed your asylum application; and
- You have not received a decision regarding your asylum application.
Once an application for asylum is granted, you may begin working in the United States immediately. You may obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), but you are not required to do so.
If you are granted political asylum, you become an “asylee.” Under U.S. law, an asylee can apply for a green card (also known as permanent residency) as soon as she has been an asylee for at least one year.
What if I Fear Returning to My Home Country, But It Has Been More than One Year Since I Entered the United States?
If you have been in the country for more than one year, there may be ways that you can still file for asylum even after the one-year deadline. You should consult an immigration lawyer with asylum experience to see if you can still file for asylum.
Even if you do not qualify for asylum, U.S. immigration law has other forms of relief available for people who will be persecuted in their country of origin:
- Withholding of removal is similar to asylum, but it is typically more difficult to prove than asylum (the successful applicant must prove that it is “more likely than not” that relocation to the applicant’s home country would result in persecution), and there is typically no path to a green card or the chance to sponsor family members for immigration to the United States. Some people who are ineligible for asylum because of criminal records may still qualify for withholding.
- Convention against Torture (CAT) is also similar to asylum and withholding, in that it protects people who are afraid of returning to their country of origin. However, a successful CAT applicant must prove that there is a clear probability that the person will be tortured by the government or with the acquiescence of government officials in the applicant’s country of origin. Most CAT applicants have criminal histories making it impossible for them to apply for the more favorable withholding of removal.
If you need help filing for political asylum in the United States, a compassionate Tennessee immigration attorney can help with your case. Contact Ozment Law for more information about our commitment to immigrant rights and to learn about how we can assist you.