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Helping You Seek Asylum In The United States

The United States is often seen as a haven for people facing political or religious persecution in other parts of the world. Thus, many people who want to escape discrimination or abuse in their home countries will seek asylum in the United States. There are strict rules and deadlines pertaining to applications for asylum, and the failure to abide by them can have devastating consequences for people seeking protection in the United States.

If you wish to seek asylum, the capable Boston individual representation immigration attorneys of O’Neil Hauser Mansfield, P.C., can guide you through the process and gather the evidence needed to provide you with a strong chance of a favorable determination. Immigration makes up 100% of our practice, and we regularly handle asylum matters. Our attorneys have extensive experience and the knowledge necessary to provide clients with prompt and effective solutions. Our office is located in Boston, and we help parties with immigration matters throughout the state and the Northeast.

Table Of Contents

Types Of Asylum

The process of asylum is complicated and lengthy. The best path involves consulting with and retaining a Massachusetts asylum lawyer to back up the claims via legitimate and factual arguments. From there, securing evidence is perhaps the best way to prepare for the proceedings and respond to allegations of any possible fraud or misrepresentation from the government.

Specific categories include:

  • Affirmative asylum: Those looking to come to the United States are encouraged to travel through lawful and safe pathways into the country. Those who enter the U.S. by crossing the border from Mexico or Canada may in some cases be able to apply for asylum by filing their application with USCIS, however, in some cases the application must be filed with a different agency. An experienced attorney can help ensure that the applications is filed at the correct location and avoid rejection
  • Defensive asylum: Someone already involved in a removal proceeding can submit an asylum application defensively by directly filing the application with an immigration judge at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Asylum is used as a defense against formal removal. Again, a Boston immigration lawyer is the best option in helping you move forward.

Grounds For Granting Asylum

Only people who qualify as refugees under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) will be granted asylum in the United States. The INA describes refugees as people who fled their country because of persecution or fear of persecution due to their religion, race, nationality, or membership in a certain political or social group.

The INA has not specifically defined persecution, but the courts have generally ruled that a threat to a person’s freedom or life due to the individual’s religion, race, political affiliation, or nationality constitutes persecution. Notably, the threats must come from the government of the individual’s native country, a political group, or other parties the government is unable to control. While persecution is frequently physical, it can also be psychological or emotional.

A person seeking asylum bears the burden of proof of establishing that he or she is a refugee as defined by the INA. In part, this means that the application must demonstrate that the harm he or she suffered constitutes persecution. The applicant will also have to verify under oath that the assertions in his or her application are true and offer support for his or her claims, such as testimony and documentary evidence. Asylum applications are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but some harm, such as torture, slavery, and sex trafficking, have been deemed forms of persecution. Even if a person meets the criteria for being deemed a refugee, the adjudicator may nonetheless deny the application. For that reason, it is crucial to ensure that you consider all aspects of your case before submitting an asylum application.

The Process Of Seeking Asylum

People who meet the INA definition of a refugee and are seeking admission to the United States at an entry port or are already in the country may be eligible for asylum status. A person seeking asylum from within the United States who is not in removal or deportation proceedings must file a completed application, after which he or she should receive notices for biometrics appointments and interviews from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Although the timing is very difficult to predict, the individual will undergo an interview at a United States asylum office, and in most cases, will receive a decision within two months after the interview.

A person seeking refugee status from outside of the United States must go to the United States Embassy, a United States Consulate, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in his or her country to submit the application. The person will then meet with an asylum officer who will evaluate the merits of his or her application. If the application is approved, the individual will be given a visa that allows him or her to enter the United States. Unfortunately, we are not able to assist persons outside the United States with their applications for refugee status. Persons inside the United States should see the information above relating to asylum and contact O’Neil Hauser Mansfield, P.C., for a consultation.

Eligibility For Political Asylum In The United States

Asylum may be granted to an individual who is already in the United States and is unable or unwilling to return to their home country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. In order to be eligible for asylum in the United States, you must ask for political asylum at a port-of-entry or apply for political asylum within one year of entering the U.S.

The applicant must show a well-founded fear of persecution on account of:

  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • Nationality;
  • Membership in a particular social group; or
  • Political opinion.

The “reasonableness” of the fear is evaluated by considering a “totality of the circumstances.” This includes both the objective background situation of the country of origin and the subjective perceptions of the applicant including the credibility of the applicant.

What Asylum-Seekers Have To Prove

The individual seeking political asylum must meet the definition of a “refugee”. In order to qualify as a refugee there are four elements the applicant must satisfy:

  1. They must have fear of persecution
  2. The fear must be well-founded
  3. The persecution feared must be on account of race, religion, membership in a particular social group or political opinion
  4. The alien must be unable or unwilling to return to his country of nationality because of their fear of persecution.

The asylum-seeker must prove to the U.S. government that their primary motivation for seeking asylum is their fear of persecution. The well-founded fear of persecution means an individual’s fear of persecution must be grounded on external or objective facts which demonstrate a realistic likelihood that he will be persecuted upon return to the country in question. Generally, the applicant must show that as an individual they will be subject to persecution. Persecution does not typically include harm resulting from civil strife or unsafe country conditions affecting all citizens of a country unless the applicant can show that they personally will be subject to a higher degree of danger or threat.

The evidence of persecution must show that:

  1. The alien possess a belief or characteristic a persecutor seeks to overcome in other means of punishment of some sort;
  2. The persecutor is already aware, or could easily become aware, that the alien possesses this belief or characteristic;
  3. The persecutor has the capability of punishing the alien; and,
  4. The persecutor has the inclination to punish the alien.

The alien has to demonstrate more than a subjective fear of persecution. An inquiry into the circumstances is the best determination of whether an alien is likely to become a victim of persecution.

The Board interprets persecution that is in reference to claims of being in a particular social group as persecution of a member of a group of persons who share a common immutable characteristic such as, race, family ties, or common past experience. Common characteristics must be those that members are incapable of changing, or which they should not be required to change because it is fundamental to their individuality. The grant of asylum by the District Director or the Immigration Judge is discretionary and could be denied even if the person has a well-founded fear of persecution.

Required Documents For An Application For Political Asylum

The following is a list of documents that may be required and helpful to obtain political asylum. This list is not all inclusive, additional documentation may be required.

  • Your birth certificate with English translation.
  • Your marriage certificate with English translation, if applicable.
  • Birth certificates for all your children.
  • Proof of termination of prior marriage, if applicable.
  • Sworn affidavit explaining your fear of persecution upon your return to your home country.
  • One passport style photograph of yourself and each family member listed on your application. The photos must be recent, within 30 days of filing your application.
  • Copies of all passports or travel documents in your possession.
  • Copy of all immigration documents, including I-94 card, arrival and departure record for you and each family member included on your application.
  • Other identification documents (example birth certificates, military or national identification card, driver’s license).

Your Asylum Questions Answered By Experienced Immigration Attorneys

When seeking asylum, understanding the legal requirements is essential. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear regarding asylum:

What is the asylum approval rate in Boston?

Boston’s low asylum approval rate of 15.5% between 2015 and 2020 contrasts starkly with the national average approval rate of 28%, making it a particularly challenging jurisdiction for asylum seekers. This underscores the need for thorough preparation and skilled representation when applying for asylum in Boston.

Which U.S. state is the best for asylum?

According to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), New York is the top destination for asylum seekers due to its relatively higher approval rates and the presence of robust immigrant communities. Other asylum seeker-friendly states include California and Illinois. In general, however, the odds of your success when seeking asylum can depend heavily on your legal representation.

How long does it take to get asylum in the U.S.?

Technically, most decisions on asylum applications are made within 180 days of filing. In reality, the timing can be much longer, with some cases taking many years until full resolution. The process can be influenced by many factors and can take longer if there are exceptional circumstances, such as:

  • Serious illness affecting the applicant
  • Death of the spouse, child or parent of the applicant
  • Case of extreme cruelty to the applicant, spouse, parent or child.

When you consult with an asylum attorney at O’Neil Hauser Mansfield, P.C., we can help you understand your options for asylum or other programs and present clear and honest guidelines on what to expect from the process.

Can you apply for asylum at an embassy?

You can’t apply for asylum at a U.S. embassy. Asylum is only available to those who are physically present in the United States or are seeking admission at a port of entry. If you’re outside the U.S. and fear persecution, you may be eligible for refugee status through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which involves a different process.

Work With A Knowledgeable Boston Immigration Attorney

At O’Neil Hauser Mansfield, P.C., our knowledgeable Boston lawyers take pride in assisting persecuted individuals with the process of seeking asylum. If we represent you, we will diligently pursue a favorable outcome on your behalf. We offer translation services in numerous languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Greek, Italian, French and Arabic, and a number of our attorneys are bilingual.

We are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and we have a longstanding relationship with government agencies, developed over our many years in practice. You can reach us by calling our Boston office at 617-855-0444 or using our form online to set up a consultation.