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Political Asylum

Political 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 (border crossing, seaport, airport) or
  • Apply for political asylum within one year of entering the United States (even if you are currently in the United States with a valid visa).

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.

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. The alien 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 his/her fear of persecution.
Fear of Persecution

The primary motivation in being accorded the status of a refugee is fear. Fear has been defined by the Board of Immigration Appeals as a “genuine apprehension of awareness of danger in another country.” Disagreement with the conditions in a country, nor the interest in gaining greater economic or personal freedom may serve as an appropriate motive for qualification as a refugee.

The Board noted that the term persecution does not include harm resulting from civil strife or anarchy. The alien must satisfy the Trial Judge that his primary motivation for seeking asylum is HIS OR HER FEAR OF PERSECUTION.

The Fear of Persecution Must be Well Founded

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.

The alien’s 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 Persecution Feared Must be “On Account of Race, Religion, Nationality, Membership in a Particular Social Group, or Political Opinion

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 Alien Must be Unable or Unwilling to Return to His Country of Nationality or to the Country Which he Last Habitually Resided Because of His Fear of Persecution

The Board found that an alien seeking refugee status must demonstrate that he WOULD BE SUBJECT TO PERSECUTION COUNTRY-WIDE, AND NOT in a particular place within a country.

The grant of asylum by the District Director and/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).
Contact Our Firm to Speak With a Lawyer

If you are afraid of persecution in your home country and are interesting in obtaining asylum in the United States our attorneys want to help you. Call our Boston, Massachusetts, office at 617-426-8100 or send an email for a confidential meeting.

Client Reviews
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