Asylum & Refugee Status

The law provides specialized protection for individuals who are forced to leave their country in order to protect themselves and their families. Individuals in this situation are given asylum or are provided with refugee status. While both the term refugee and asylum seeker share similar connotations, according to the United States government, an individual who seeks asylum and an individual who seeks refugee status must meet different requirements.

If you believe you or a loved one is a candidate for asylum, call us or contact Tucker, Nong and Associates online immediately. Our qualified immigration lawyers understand how to properly manage asylum cases.

Differences between Asylum and Refugee Status

The primary difference between seeking refugee status and asylum is where you are located when you apply for this protection:

Refugee Status: If you are outside of the United States and are seeking protection, you are required to apply for refugee status.

Asylum Status: Depending on the situation, once an individual has already arrived to the United States (maybe entering illegally), they would then need to apply for asylum status.

Working while holding Asylum or Refugee Status

Both statuses will allow the protection seeker the right to stay legally within the United States for an indefinite period of time. Refugees and asylum-seekers are given permission to work. Within their first year of being in the United States, they can apply for a green card.

Qualifying for Asylum or Refugee Status

Not everyone requesting refugee or asylum status will qualify for it. They must first prove two things. First, they must prove that they either cannot or do not want to return to their home country because they have either been persecuted in the past or because they fear they will be persecuted if they return.

Reason for Seeking Asylum

An asylum seeker must show that the reason for their seeking persecution includes is because of one of the following:

  • race
  • religious beliefs
  • nationality
  • membership in a specific social group
  • political beliefs

What is Persecution?

Persecution is defined as harassing, punishing, injuring, oppressing, or in some other way causing an individual to suffer both physical and psychological harm.

The law is not specific on what would and would not qualify as persecution for an individual seeking asylum status. However, by looking at past cases, it can be argued that persecution could include things such as acts of violence, abuse, torture, unlawful imprisonment, and a refusal to provide someone with basic human rights and basic freedoms.

Historical Examples of Asylum/Refugee Status

Historically, people have been provided with asylum or refugee status when they have been submitted to the following situations by the government where they live:

  • An individual/group is put in prison, and then tortured as political dissidents or as “undesirables” in society,
  • An individual/group fired on while participating in a legal protest
  • An individual is part of an ethnic group that has been submitted to genocide by the government
  • An individual/group was excluded from the political process because of their religious beliefs

These are just a few examples that might qualify an individual for refugee and asylum status. There are many more scenarios that would need to be discussed with an immigration lawyer that specializes in asylum/refugee status.

The Role of Government

It is not necessary for a government to actively participate in persecution in order for its citizens to file for asylum status. If a government sits idly by and watches while nongovernmental entities commit acts of persecution, for example, if the police and law enforcement officials do nothing while a gang of criminals consistently attack the churches of a minority religious group in the country, or if armed militants threaten violence or kidnap people who will not voluntarily join them while the government does nothing, this also would qualify as persecution.

Understanding Persecution

Something that must be emphasized is that the persecution must be a result of one of the following five scenarios: religious persecution, racially motivated persecution, nationally motivated persecution, membership to a particular social group, and persecution because of holding a particular political opinion.

Examples of Persecution

For example, violence against Protestants in a predominantly Catholic country could be seen as violence based on religious beliefs. However, if a Protestant living in a predominantly Catholic country did something to anger a Catholic criminal and as a result was subject to violence, this individual would not have the necessary connection to the five grounds previously mentioned, and so they would not be eligible for asylum.

In recent years, the United State’s government has provided asylum based on gender. This has provided protection for women who are fearful of being forced to submit to cultural practices including domestic violence, forced and arranged marriages, and female genital cutting.

The Five Grounds of Persecution

The United State’s government will not grant refugee status to an individual who has not received persecution or who is not afraid of receiving persecution on one of the five aforementioned grounds. Of the five, the first three grounds – religion, nationality, and race, are clearly defined. Situations involving persecution due to (1) political opinion or (2) persecution due to membership in a social group are typically more complicated.

Persecution due to Political Opinion

Often times, persecution based on political opinion comes when an individual has and voices an opinion that is critical of the government. An individual seeking asylum for this reason would need to clearly show that the authorities know that they have this negative opinion, and that based on this knowledge, the government is seeking to do them harm.

Persecution due to Membership in a Particular Social Group

Of the five categories, this can often be the most difficult to define. Identifying what it means to belong to an identifiable group has been the source of many legal debates. Some view a social group as a group of individuals who can be easily identified by the government and who the government views as a threat.

Examples of individuals who the United State’s government has accepted as asylumees or refugees include individuals who belong to persecuted tribes, persecuted ethnic groups, individuals who belong to social classes such as the educated elite classes, family members of political dissidents, homosexuals, and former military or police officers who might find themselves the target of assassination. In some cases, women have been considered to be part of a social group receiving persecution.

How we can help you

Determining eligibility for asylum and refugee status is not an easy thing to do. A individual will not be able to do successfully complete the process without the help of an experienced immigration lawyer.

If you believe you or a loved one is a candidate for asylum or refugee status due to persecution, call Tucker, Nong and Associates immediately or send us a message online. Situations involving asylum or refugee status can be extremely complicated. Don’t gamble with your future – give us a call or contact us online to learn how we can help.