Key Eligibility Factors for Asylum in the United States


Asylum seekers and refugees receive special legal protections for good reason. They are people who have escaped from their home because they feared for their safety and are afraid to return.

Although the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ are often interchangeable, and there is no distinction between the factors the two groups faced in their home countries, there is a legal difference.

people in life vests on a boat

Your classification as a refugee or an asylum seeker depends on where you are when you apply for protection.

People who have already made it to the border of the United States, perhaps through the use of a visa or by entering the country illegally, can apply for asylum status while those who apply from outside the United States, must apply for refugee status.

What You Must Show to be Eligible for Asylum

1 Persecution

You must demonstrate you have been persecuted in your home country or have a “well-founded fear of persecution.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services lists the relevant fields of persecution as the following:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership of a particular social group
  • Political opinion
  • 2 You Must be In the United States
  • You can apply for asylum if you are already in the United States or are at a port of entry.
  • 3 You Have Been in the U.S. for Less Than a Year.Generally, you will not be able to seek asylum if you have been in the country for over a year when you make your application. There are some exceptions based on extraordinary circumstances and changed circumstances.

    4 You Have Not Applied Previously

    Asylum seekers are only given one chance. If you have applied before and your application has been denied, you cannot apply again. You can appeal your denial through the courts system.

    5 You Have Not Committed a Serious Crime

    Some applicants are barred from receiving asylum in the United States if they committed serious crimes in the past such as posing security threats or committed aggravated felonies.

    If you receive asylum in the United States, you can stay and obtain a work permit. If your application is denied, you will face deportation from the country, unless you have other documentation that allows you to stay such as a nonimmigrant visa.

    An experienced Austin immigration lawyer can explain all of your options. If you are seeking asylum in the United States time may not be on your side. We can make a strong case for you to stay in the country, as well as avoiding the pitfalls. Call us for a consultation at  (512) 399-2311.

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