Many people come to the United States to visit friends and family, to work, go to school, or just as tourists. However, some people come to the United States fleeing persecution, abuse or torture in their home countries. Many unfortunate souls are forced to flee their homelands to save themselves and their families; they come to the United States for refuge. Many people flee their home countries and then apply for refugee status outside of the United States. This is what is going on with thousands of Syrian refugees right now. These victims of the Syrian civil war have been forced to flee Syria and have applied for refugee status to come to the United States (and other countries). These refugee applicants are vetted for honesty, have their backgrounds checked and if they meet the definition of “refugee” according to our immigration laws, they can be given safe passage to the United States and resettled here as refugees.
But what about people who are already in the United States as tourists, students or just here, and they are afraid to go home because they will be targeted for persecution? The bad news is, if you are already here in the United States, you cannot apply for refugee status. The good news is, you can apply for asylum, which is in essence, the same thing as applying as a refugee abroad. If your asylum application is granted, you will be given asylee status and allowed to stay in the United States. After one year, you can apply for your green card (lawful permanent residence).
How do I apply for asylum if I am here in the United States you ask? Its complicated, but there are a few important things to remember when you are here in the United States and are afraid to return to your home country and therefore thinking about applying for asylum. First, go see an experienced and trusted immigration attorney who handles asylum cases. Do not go see a notario or paralegal or that guy in your neighborhood who applied for asylum. There is no replacement for competent and correct legal advice when it comes to you and your family’s future and safety. Before and after you consult with an immigration attorney, here are a few other things to remember.
1) You must apply for asylum within a year of arriving in the United States or you are ineligible. That’s right, with very few and limited exceptions, if you entered the United States more than a year ago, you are not eligible for asylum. You can still apply for something similar to asylum, called withholding of removal, but even if that is granted, you are ordered removed and do not get a green card after a year. So its very, very important to remember, apply for asylum within a year of your last entry into the United States. Of course, if you are a student, or on a work visa, you may be excused from filing within one year of your entry; seek legal advice to see you if qualify for this exception. Also, if you or a family member became very sick or were injured during the first year you were here, you may qualify for an exception. There are other exceptions and excuses for not filing on time, but they are limited; go talk to an immigration attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.
2) Be honest. Even if you apply within one year and bad things happened to you in your country or bad things will happen to you if you return, if you lie or leave out important details about you or your case, you can be found not credible and your asylum application could be denied. One of the most common reasons for the U.S. government to deny an asylum application is because the applicant (you) is not credible. I have seen asylum applications denied and applicants found not credible because of three minor inconstancies between their application and interview. So, be honest, don’t exaggerate, don’t make things up and if you don’t remember a date or time or location, don’t guess at the answer. Also, if you file a frivolous asylum application, which means one with a made up story about you and your past or future fear of returning to your county, you can be denied asylum and banned from all future forms of immigration benefits forever. So be honest!
3) If you follow one and two above, here is the heart of what you have to prove to the U.S. government to qualify for asylum: A person may be granted asylum in the exercise of the Attorney General’s discretion, if the person demonstrates that he or she is a refugee within the meaning of the law. To qualify for a grant of asylum, the person must establish that he or she is a refugee. The law defines a refugee, in part, as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
This is where many people give up trying to apply for asylum on their own and hire an attorney. What is a particular social group? Am I part of one? What is a well-founded fear? These are all great questions that even seasoned immigration attorneys and judges have trouble explaining and understanding. Here is the long and short of it: were you harmed in the past or will you be harmed in the future by the government of your home country, and if so, did they harm you or will they harm you because of your political opinion, race, religion, nationality, or because you were a gypsy, homosexual or part of another group? If you can answer yes to these questions, you may qualify for asylum.
There are many other important requirements for applying for asylum, but if you remember to file on time, be honest and if you fear harm or were harmed for the right reason by the right people, you and your family may have a future in the United States as an asylee, then a lawful permanent resident, then a U.S. citizen.
If you need an immigration attorney anywhere in the United States, but certainly if you live in Orlando or Jacksonville, please call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon.
If you want to apply for asylum or have questions about it, call us today to discuss your case.
Visit our website for more information about SLG: http://www.slgattorneys.com