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Asylum


SHORSTEIN, LASNETSKI, & GIHON
helps people obtain asylum in the United States.

Whether you are affirmatively filing an asylum application with USCIS or applying for asylum before an Immigration Judge as a form of relief from deportation in removal proceedings, our immigration lawyers can help you with your Asylum case.  

Immigration Lawyer John Gihon explains Asylum



What is Asylum?

Asylum provides a pathway for certain people to not only obtain lawful status in the United States, but also provides a pathway to a greencard and ultimately United States citizenship.  The concept behind asylum is that we, as a country, are going to provide safe haven to those who would otherwise be persecuted or tortured if sent back to their own countries.  There is no doubt that Asylum has saved many lives.  

The definition of a "refugee" and an "asylee" are the same, except an asylee is someone who has presented themselves at a port of entry to the United States or are already inside the United States.  A "refugee" is someone who applies from outside the United States.  

An "asylee" is a person who, because of a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership ina  particular social group, or political opinion, is unable or unwilling to return to that country, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country.  

Who is eligible to apply for Asylum?

If you are otherwise eligible, you can apply for Asylum within 1 year of entering the United States.  In order to be eligible, you must establish that either:
  1. you are unwilling or unable to return to your home country because of past persecution, or 
  2. you have a well founded fear of persecution, 
on the account of 
  1. Race, 
  2. Religion,
  3. Nationality,
  4. Membership in a Particular Social Group, or 
  5. Political Opinion. 
So, it is not enough to establish that you will be persecuted if returned to your own country.  You must demonstrate that the persecution is based on one of the five categories above and that the government is unable or unwilling to control the group that will inflict the persecution or that the government is inflicting the persecution.  This requirement has precluded many people from being granted asylum.  For example, people who are afraid to return to their country because a civilian gang has threatened their lives typically is not going to be sufficient to establish asylum, because the persecution is not coming from the government and the courts have typically held that even though gangs operate in violation of the law, the government has not been unable or unwilling to control the gangs. 

What is "Past Persecution?"

The Board of Immigration Appeals defined "past persecution" in Matter of Acosta as "a threat to the life or freedom of, or the infliction of suffering or harm upon, those who differ in a way regarded as offensive."   

What evidence will I need to establish past persecution or fear of future persecution for my Asylum case?

Every case is different and in true Asylum cases, the client is often unable to obtain records to prove their allegations because the government who controls the records is the same government who is inflicting the persecution.  The law recognizes this issue and so the burden to prove an Asylum case is relatively low.  You must prove to a "reasonable possibility" that you will be persecuted.  

Your own testimony, affidavits from people with knowledge, country condition reports, new articles, medical records, photos of injuries are all examples of possible evidence in your case.  Each case is different and asylum cases are very complex. 

What are the benefits of Asylum?

If you are granted Asylum, you can apply for a greencard in one year, you can bring your spouse with you, and you can eventually apply for naturalization (U.S. citizenship).  You may be eligible for Asylum even if you entered the United States without authorization or if you overstayed a visa and are now out of lawful status.  

How can I apply for Asylum?

There are two ways to apply for asylum.  Affirmative Asylum is when you apply with USCIS on Form I-589.  For example, if you entered the United States on a visitor visa and are here inside the United States, but you fear returning home, you can send an application to USCIS, which will then either approve or deny your asylum.  The other way to apply for Asylum is called a defensive Asylum application.  If you are placed in removal (deportation) proceedings, you can ask the Immigration Judge for Asylum.  The result is the same either way if your Asylum is granted. You will become an Asylee and will become eligible for a greencard in one year, if you are otherwise eligible.  
What should I do if I think I might be eligible for Asylum?

You should never apply for asylum without speaking to an experienced immigration lawyer first.  Asylum law is one of the most complicated areas of immigration law.  There are countless appellate cases that have been decided that may preclude you from obtaining Asylum.  If you apply and are denied, you could be placed in deportation proceedings.  If you apply and it is determined that your application is frivolous, there are significant and severe consequences.  Even if you don't invest in an immigration attorney to file your asylum application, you should invest in a comprehensive immigration consultation to educate yourself about the process and potential pitfalls.  
If you believe that you may be eligible for Asylum, call us:

Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon

904-642-3332 (Jacksonville)

or

407-228-2019 (Orlando). 

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