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Protection from Persecution: Are You Eligible as Asylee or Refugee?

Each year, thousands and thousands of children, women, and men flee their homes for many reasons such as war, violence, and persecution to seek protection from the U.S. government as either refugees or asylees.

What is the Difference Between Asylum and Refugee Status?

From the U.S. immigration standpoint, refugee and asylee are similar in their definition under Section 101 (a) (42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Eligibility for asylum and refugee requires the same legal standard of persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of membership in a particular social group, nationality, race, religion, or political opinion.

How can you then differentiate these two types of protection? Simply from the location of the applicant when applying for protection. An asylum applicant needs to be at a U.S. port of entry (border) or in the U.S. to apply for asylum. In contrast, a refugee applicant needs to be outside (overseas) of the U.S. and their country of nationality to apply for refugee status through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and that application does not give the opportunity to choose a specific country of protection.

It is important to remember that a refugee applicant is required to have a financial sponsor in the U.S. and an asylum applicant is not.

Applicants may apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States, even when in removal proceedings and/or residing in the U.S. illegally. You will need to discuss with an experienced immigration attorney to understand the law and its ramification better.

There has recently been a proposed change in asylum filing fees. If the proposed fee increase, which is currently enjoined, goes into effect, the fees for the Form I-589 will go from $0 to $50.

To qualify for asylum or refugee status, an applicant needs to prove that s/he has been persecuted in the past in their home country and/or s/he has a “well-founded fear” of future persecution in their home country and any country of citizenship.

What is Persecution for Immigration Purpose?

Persecution is punishment, oppression, injury, or harassment, usually of a severe nature and causing physical or psychological harm to someone. For immigration purposes, persecution should be understood as serious threats against one's life and or freedom, "significant" physical force or "barbaric" conduct and not from financial struggles, personal reasons, unfair and unjust treatment, or grudge against people.

It is crucial to remember that the persecution must be on account of the five enumerated grounds of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

What is "Well-Founded Fear" of Future Persecution for Immigration Purpose?

The fear of future persecution must be "well-founded." It means that the asylum applicant's fear must be genuine and objectively reasonable.

What is the Type of Persecutors for Immigration Purpose?

The U.S. immigration law recognizes that persecution can be perpetrated by the government of the applicant's country of origin via police, military, or any government security forces. The law also acknowledges that persecution can be perpetrated by persons or organizations that the foreign country is unwilling or unable to control, such as religious or cultural groups, guerillas, or organized vigilantes. For example, the detention of women subjected to honor killing by family members or their community and the unwillingness of a government to control others persecuting gays and lesbians have been considered by asylum officers or immigration judges. However, the recently proposed changes in immigration laws would deny protection to victims of social abuse, mostly where the foreign government failed to protect or have shown indifference to the asylum applicant's persecution, and may make it impossible for an applicant, member of a particular social group, to ever qualify for asylum on the ground enumerated in the refugee definition (race, religion, national origin, and political opinion).

What to Do If You Believe That You Have a Valid Claim of Persecution?

The immigration laws are continually changing and are getting very stringent. Applying for asylum may seem straightforward, but it can come with some obstacles. Therefore, it is vital to contact an experienced immigration attorney who can help you understand immigration laws and guide you in the process.

The Anyere Law Firm, LLC assists clients throughout the state and anywhere in the United States with complex immigration issues. Call the office at (301) 501-5038 to schedule a free consultation or submit our online contact form today.


The Anyere Law Firm LLC is committed to answering your questions about immigration law issues in the United States.

We offer a free consultation and we’ll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.