Asylum before the Immigration Court

A person who is not in removal proceedings can apply affirmatively for asylum before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  In some circumstances, when an asylum application is denied before USCIS, the case is sent to the immigration court.  The person can then apply again before the immigration judge.  A person in removal proceedings who has never before filed for asylum can also file for asylum for the first time before the immigration judge.

Because most applicants for asylum in removal proceedings only have a few hours to present their story to the judge, it is extremely important that all the documents and the legal brief are submitted to the court in advance and that the testimony given before the court on the day of the final hearing be well organized and address all the requirements of asylum.

In preparing an asylum case for the court, our removal defense team works closely with the client to understand all the details of why the client fears return to his or her birth country and to present those facts to the court in the best manner.  We also work with our clients to present the necessary documents and evidence of the conditions in the country to which the client fears return.  In most cases, we also work with the client to locate an expert witness to testify in the case.

To qualify for asylum, a person must prove that he or she fear returning to his or her home country based on past persecution or a well founded fear of future persecution based on his or her:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a Particular Social Group, or
  • Political Opinion

The person must prove that the persecution is by the government or by a group that the government is unable or unwilling to control.  The person must also prove that there is nowhere in the entire home county where the person could live safely.  Subject to a few exceptions, a person must file for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States.

In addition to these basic requirements, there are several things that can make someone ineligible for asylum. Examples include a conviction of an aggravated felony or particularly serious crime, participation in the persecution of others, or involvement with terrorism, including giving support to a terrorist organization.