Asylum is a form of protection for individuals in the United States who fear persecution in their home country. Persecution includes a wide range of severe harm, including physical mistreatment, detention, and serious threats. In order for an individual to be eligible for asylum, the persecution feared must be from the government, or persons or organizations that the government is unable or unwilling to control. Additionally, the individual must be targeted for persecution because of his or her race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. It is important to note, however, that certain activities may make a person ineligible for asylum, including certain criminal convictions and terrorism-related activities, among others.
Generally, individuals must apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States. There are, however, recognized exceptions to this rule, such as changed conditions in the individual’s home country or extraordinary circumstances that prevented the individual from applying for asylum earlier. If an individual is granted asylum, he or she may apply for permanent residency after one year, and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship. Spouses and children under age 21 can also derive asylum status from the principal applicant if they are included on the application.
Withholding of Removal
Withholding of Removal is a type of protection for individuals who fear severe harm in their home country but are ineligible for asylum. Similar to asylum, in order to qualify for withholding of removal, individuals must fear grave mistreatment from the government, or from persons or organizations that the government is unable or unwilling to control. Additionally, the individual must be targeted for this mistreatment because of his/her race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. As with asylum, there are certain activities which act as a bar to withholding of removal, including certain criminal convictions and terrorism-related activities, among others.
Unlike asylum, individuals can apply for withholding of removal at any time, even years after they first enter the United States. Furthermore, applicants with certain criminal convictions may be eligible for withholding of removal even if they are barred from applying for asylum. While withholding of removal is more flexible in terms of the timing of the application and the criminal history of the applicant, the standard of proof is significantly higher than that of asylum. In other words, the applicant must have stronger evidence to prove to the adjudicator that it is more likely than not that their life or freedom will be threatened in their home country.
Withholding of removal is a limited protection, only granting the individual the right to not be returned to their home country while they remain in danger of mistreatment. Lastly, spouses and children cannot derive immigration status from the principal withholding of removal applicant if he or she is granted relief.
Convention Against Torture
The United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) provides protection for individuals who fear being tortured in their home country by the government or a group closely associated with the government. Torture includes extreme pain or suffering and can be physical or mental. While the torture must be inflicted intentionally, there is no requirement that the torture be for a specific reason or characteristic, like with asylum. Applicants are required to present evidence proving that it is more likely than not that they will face torture upon return to their home country. Individuals may apply for relief under CAT at any time and regardless of their criminal history. CAT relief is a limited protection, only guaranteeing that the Department of Homeland Security will not remove the individual to their home country while he or she remains in danger of being tortured. Lastly, spouses and children cannot derive immigration status from the principal applicant if he or she is granted CAT protection.