Massa Viana Law


Seeking Protection from Harm in your Home Country

Asylum is frequently in the news, and there are a lot of rumors and misinformation out there about what asylum is and the process for obtaining it. In reality, the process is long and complicated, and it is highly advised that you consult with an experienced attorney if you are thinking about pursuing an asylum claim. 

There are two types of asylum claims: affirmative and defense. Affirmative asylum is for those who are in the United States but have not been placed into the removal (i.e. deportation) proceedings at the Immigration Court. When you apply for asylum affirmatively, your application goes to USCIS for review. You will be placed on a waiting list to be scheduled for an interview, which can be anywhere from a few months to several years.

At the interview, you will have the opportunity to explain to the officer why you are afraid of returning to your home country. The examiner will ask you questions about your life in your home country as well as here in the United States, including any criminal history. The Asylum Officer will then either approve your application or refer your case to the Immigration Court. 

Asylum is a status available to those who meet the definition of a “refugee” according to the 1951 Refugee Convention. In other words, those who are afraid to return to their home country because they fear will suffer persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Seeking asylum is available to anyone, regardless of how you entered the country. Generally, you must apply for asylum within one year of your entry, however, certain exceptions to this rule may apply. If you win your case and are granted asylum by the Asylum Officer you will become eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Seeking asylum based on severe domestic violence is possible. It will be necessary to show that the violence that has been committed against you is related to one of the enumerated protected groups. Frequently, attorneys argue victims of domestic violence fall within a Particular Social Group. But being a victim of domestic violence does not necessarily mean one will qualify for asylum. Each case has to be analyzed on its own merits.

You may be eligible for asylum if you are currently in the U.S., and you are unwilling or unable to return to your home country because you fear persecution by the government of your home country or by a group in your home country from which the government is unable or unwilling to protect you.

Yes! You must apply for asylum within one (1) year of arrival in the U.S. unless you have a good reason for the delay. But even if more than one year have elapsed, it is important you consult with an attorney as your case may fit within one of the exceptions to the one-year deadline. Moreover, even if you don’t qualify for asylum, you may still be able to apply for withholding of removal.

You must fear future persecution. If you suffered past persecution, the asylum office may assume that you also fear future persecution. Your fear of persecution must be based on one or more of the following items: Race, Religion, Nationality, Membership in a particular social group, or Political opinion.

Some examples that may qualify as persecution are killing, torture, kidnapping, domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, and inability to practice your religion.

Can I Obtain Work Authorization While I Wait for the Government to Make a Decision on My Case?

Usually, yes. If it has been at least 180 days (6 months) since you submitted your asylum application and you have not caused any delays in your process that would “stop the clock” from counting. 

Can I Help My Family Members?

If you are granted asylum, you may be able to petition for your immediate family members as derivatives to your asylum status. This process can be used to benefit family members who are still living outside the United States, as well as inside the country. Please note the process must be started within two years of winning your asylum case.

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