Individuals can request asylum if they fear persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group. The persecution must be from government authorities or someone the home country cannot control.
Asylum seekers have to go through an interview with an asylum officer or immigration judge, called a credible fear screening interview. Applicants can bring their attorney and an interpreter with them to the interview.
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What is Asylum?
If you can show that you have a legitimate fear of persecution in your home country for one or more of the following five grounds, you may be eligible to seek for asylum. These protected grounds include things like race, religion, nationality, social group membership, and political opinion. Economic difficulty is not a legitimate justification for seeking safety.
The asylum process involves a series of interactions with multiple federal agencies, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Having an experienced lawyer by your side can help you navigate this complicated web of agencies.
You can apply for asylum with USCIS form I-589 if you are already in the United States or arrive at a border crossing on a valid visa (affirmative asylum). Whether you have an attorney or represent yourself, you can bring an interpreter to your interview by submitting a G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative.
How Can I Find an Asylum Lawyer?
Those seeking asylum should consult an experienced Washington, DC, asylum lawyer. Many pro bono legal providers can provide free legal representation. Unfortunately, these attorneys have limited capacity, and it is a very long process to be selected for presentation.
The asylum interview is significant, and applicants should be prepared to answer questions about why they left their home country, what kind of harm they suffered in their homeland, and what would happen to them if they returned to that country in the future. They may also be asked to explain why they qualify for asylum under the five protected grounds, including past persecution based on race or nationality, religion, political opinion, social group, or sexual orientation.
After the interview, the officer will grant the applicant asylum or refer the case to Immigration Court. Asylum cases are heard before a Judge, and it is critical to have a solid and knowledgeable immigration attorney present at this hearing.
How Does the Asylum Process Work?
Following World War II’s atrocities, many nations agreed never to slam shut the door on people who needed protection. This right was enshrined in 1948’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Refugee Convention 1951.
The United States adopted a similar law with its Refugee Act of 1980, creating asylum for people fleeing persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion. To qualify for asylum, individuals must apply within the country or at its border and have a legitimate fear of persecution upon return to their home countries.
However, navigating the asylum process is daunting for many individuals who need help. For example, some asylum seekers need help to afford a lawyer or access pro bono services because the process is cumbersome and complex. Moreover, the backlog of cases can take months or years to resolve. An experienced attorney can help to expedite the case and maximize the chances of success.
What Happens During the Asylum Interview?
Once you have been scheduled for an interview, you will receive a letter from the Asylum Office with the date, time, and location. It would be best if you arrived early to check in and provide your identification documents for security. It is also a good idea to bring any additional supporting documents you have yet to submit.
During your interview, the AO will ask questions about your asylum claim. Specifically, the AO will want to know about the harm you suffered in your home country and why you are afraid to return there. It is essential, to be honest, thorough, and specific in your answers.
You can bring witnesses with you to the interview, including family members. However, you should only bring witnesses who can attest to your experience. If you get a witness, they will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth. In addition, the officer will likely question your witnesses to help screen for any bars that could prevent you from receiving asylum.