Political Asylum – 15 Things You Must Know

The United States has long offered protection to immigrants in the form of Political Asylum.  This path to freedom may be given to immigrants who apply for political asylum within one year of entry into the United States, or those who face deportation in an Immigration Court hearing.

 The legal rule for Political Asylum says that an immigrant must be a refugee.

  1. Refugee is defined as a person who is not willing or not able to go back to his home country because he is afraid of being  a victim of persecution based on
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Political Opinion, or
  • Membership in a particular social group
  1. Persecution has been explained by the Board of Immigration Appeals to be
  • a threat to life
  • a threat to freedom of, or
  • infliction of suffering or harm
  1. Persecution is NOT considered to be
  •  harassment
  • discrimination
  • mere prejudice
  • civil strife
  • general conditions of violence
  • economic  disadvantage
  1. The objective of the persecutor must be to punish.
  2. Political asylum requires a “well-founded fear” of persecution.  This fear has to be objectively and subjectively reasonable.
  3. The United States Supreme Court stated that a political asylum applicant needs simply to show the reasonable possibility that she will be persecuted.
  4. It is often said that a 10% chance of persecution is enough for a grant of political asylum.
  5. A persecutor may be:
  • the government in the political asylum applicant’s homeland
  • a person who his government does not wish to control  OR cannot control or
  • a group that his government does not wish to control  OR cannot control

9. To demonstrate past persecution based on one or more of the five grounds (race

religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group),

a political asylum applicant shows the presumption that she is afraid of future persecution.

10. An asylee is an immigrant who has won political asylum.

11. An asylee cannot be deported unless Immigration proves a change in circumstances – in the political asylum winner’s home country – that he may not face a threat to his safety on his return.

12. An asylee can get a work permit based on a grant of political asylum.  In certain cases, an applicant for political asylum qualifies for a work permit as well.

13. An asylee is able to file for a green card one year after the political asylum grant.

14. An immigrant who has won political asylum can file to give asylee status to his spouse and unmarried children under 21.

15. After five years of green card status, the political asylum winner may be able to file for United States citizenship.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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