Section 208 (a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows foreign nationals present in the United States to apply for asylum if the applicant can prove he or she is unwilling or unable to return to his or her home country due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution due to the applicant’s:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group
  • Political Opinion
In order to be eligible for asylum, you must have been harmed by your government or someone in your country that your government cannot or will not control. If your government (or someone they cannot control) has committed serious human rights violations against you such as detention and physical torture you may have been persecuted. If you have been threatened to death, or physically harmed you may have been persecuted. Also, if the government (or someone they cannot control) has inflicted psychological abuse or severe economic deprivation or has threatened your life or freedom, these acts too may rise to the level of persecution. The definition of persecution does not typically include legitimate prosecution for crime, mandatory military service, or fear of civil war. In general, you have a one-year deadline from the date of your last entry into the United States in order to apply for asylum.

Even if you cannot show that you have been persecuted in the past, you may still be eligible for asylum if you can show that you have a well-founded fear of persecution in the future. If you have a real fear of returning to your country and there is evidence available to show that your fear is reasonable, you may qualify for asylum based on this fear. In order to qualify for asylum, the persecution that you experience or fear must be ONLY on account of your political opinion, membership in a particular social group, race, religion, or your nationality.

There are two types of asylum: Affirmative and Defensive.  Affirmative asylum is when you submit your application to the Asylum Office for their review.  If the Asylum Office does not approve the applicant’s application and the applicant is out of status in the United States, the case will be referred to an Immigration Judge.  Presenting an asylum case before an Immigration Judge is considered Defensive asylum.

Submitting a strong asylum case requires much thought and preparation. Much time must be spent preparing the applicant’s statement and application and deciding what additional information to present.  Supporting documentation must be included to prove the Applicant’s claim(s).  Additionally, certain time deadlines, based around one year after arriving in the United States, must be satisfied in order for the asylum application to be accepted by USCIS.  The are exceptions to the one-year rule so a foreign national must discuss this topic with their attorney before filing.

The USCIS form required for asylum is Form I-589.

Note: Not all immigration attorneys accept or have experience with asylum cases.  Before retaining your attorney, inquire as to whether or not he or she has represented asylum clients in the past.  The Law Office of Ruby L. Powers has represented clients successfully in both the affirmative and defensive asylum application processes.

Please call the law office to schedule a consultation and determine whether you have a viable claim for asylum.

Top Ten Ways to have a successful Asylum Interview

Written by Houston Immigration Attorney: Ruby L. Powers 

 December 2009

Your asylum interview is a crucial step in demonstrating the truth and seriousness of your asylum claim. The following are suggestions to implement before and during an asylum interview for successful results:

Before Interview:

1 Review declaration and application

Review your declaration and application some time after you submit it and a week or two before your interview. You can better catch any errors and also realize if you have left any important details out that need to be added.

2 Prep for the interview

Review the application thoroughly and go over details of your story with your attorney or close family member or friend. Try to refresh your memory.

3 Have Translator

Prepare to have a translator, if needed. It is better to be safe than sorry.

4 Take care of yourself and prepare for the interview as if it is a big exam

Get your sleep the night before the interview. Make sure to eat before you go so you are not hungry. Interviews can be half an hour to even three hours long. You need to have enough energy for this intensive event.

5 Prepare for Early morning interviews

If your interview is early in the morning and you are not an early morning person, wake up early a few days before the day of the interview. On the day of the interview, make sure to give yourself enough time to wake up your brain (talk to someone, drink coffee, etc.) so that you will be able to do your best.

6 Drive to the interview location the day or two before the interview

This will inform you how long it will take to arrive and any obstacles you might incur. Plan to arrive early the day of the interview.

During the Interview:

7 Bring additional evidence or edits

Bring any new evidence, new supporting documents, new articles, and edits to your application or declaration.

8 Try to connect with the asylum officer

Try to connect with the asylum officer so they understand your story and reasons for applying for asylum. Many asylum officers type notes during the interview. Don’t be bothered or distracted by this but try to stay focused on the interview and answering the questions.

9 Bring up two to three key themes to your claim

Sit back and realize two to three points of why you are requesting asylum. Remember to reiterate these two to three key themes throughout the interview and especially at the beginning and end.

10 Show of Emotion

It is ok to cry and show emotion. If anything, this helps demonstrate the veracity of your claim and you shouldn’t try to hold back your thoughts, emotions, and fears.