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How Do I Apply for Asylum or Refugee Status in the USA?

Posted by Gutierrez Law Firm on May 22, 2013

People who cannot return to their home country due to persecution or social discrimination may seek legal protection in the United States. People who are already in the country can obtain asylum in the U.S. On the other hand, individuals located outside the United States may seek similar protection by applying for refugee status. If an application for asylum or refugee status is granted, the applicant can stay in the U.S. indefinitely.

Requirements for Asylum or Refugee Status

Refugees and asylees have the right to apply for a green card and work in the United States. However, not everyone can apply for asylum or refuge. Applicants must meet two basic requirements:

  • An applicant must be unable or unwilling to return to their home country due to past discrimination or persecution
  • Those who cannot or are unwilling to return to their home country must show that the persecution stems from their nationality, political persuasion, race, religion or membership in a social group

What Constitutes Persecution?

The legal definition of persecution includes, but is not limited to the following circumstances or conditions:

  • Harassment or oppression
  • Physical or psychological abuse
  • Threats of abuse
  • Imprisonment or torture
  • Vigilantism
  • Kidnapping
  • Forced population control
  • Genocide

Victims of other circumstances that are unrelated to nationality, political perspective, race, religion or social group do not qualify for asylum or refugee status. The category of social group has been broadened in recent years to include women who fear the imposition of genital cutting, forced marriage or domestic violence.


Those who claim to have suffered political persecution at the hands of government authorities must provide evidence that the persecution took place. Evidence of anti-government activities, political writings, union membership or participation in student demonstrations may help to prove the existence of a pattern of persecution. Immigration authorities may also be able to establish grounds for political persecution by verifying an applicant’s membership in a social group that is held in disregard by the government.

It can be somewhat more difficult for immigration officials to define what constitutes a social group under the law. It may become evident to officials that a certain group with specific identifiable characteristics is a threat to the government in power. Group characteristics may include religious affiliation, ethnic or cultural practices, social class, associations with dissidents or sexual orientation.

If you require help with the application process for asylum or refuge, schedule a free consultation with the Gutierrez Law Firm at 210.225.7114.

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