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What people should know about seeking asylum in the United States

Many citizens of other countries want to enter or stay in the United States for a variety of different reasons. Some people travel to the United States to continue their education or pursue a job. Others enter the country to get married or reunite with family members.

People also flee to the United States when they face persecution in their country of origin or where they have resided for years. Those who qualify for asylum can potentially remain in the United States to protect themselves from persecution.

What does an immigrant generally need to establish if they intend to seek asylum in the United States?

Proof of protected characteristics

The person seeking asylum needs to establish that they face suffering or harm because of something that makes them different than others in their country of origin. Typically, the protected characteristics that could lead to a claim of asylum include political opinion, membership to a social group, race, religion and nationality. An individual needs to establish that they belong to a group facing persecution and that their return to the country where they hold citizenship or have resided for years could put them at risk.

Proof of potential persecution

Simply belonging to a racial group that is a minority in one country does not automatically qualify someone for asylum. The same is true of hailing from a country that is currently unstable politically. An individual generally needs reasonable cause to expect intentional persecution that targets them because of certain characteristics. The threat of physical, emotional or psychological harm could constitute persecution. Unfair punishment for criminal activity could constitute persecution. Economic disadvantages, including severe discrimination, can also constitute persecution. Attempts at extortion targeting certain groups could also constitute persecution.

Applying for asylum can be a complex process. Typically, people have to physically be present in the United States to qualify for asylum. Those who do successfully qualify can remain in the country and may even qualify for authorization to work in the country. Those who understand the asylum process and the requirements imposed on applicants may have a better chance of prevailing when they seek asylum. Learning more about different immigration arrangements by seeking legal guidance could benefit those who are unable to safely return to their countries of origin.