What Asylum Is, And Who Can Get It 

If the government gives you asylum, you can stay in the United States. You can live and work here, permanently. It normally leads to a green card (i.e., permanent residency), and which can lead to U.S. citizenship, and all the rights and opportunities that come with it.

When it grants someone asylum, our government is acknowledging that the recipient may be harmed in their home country, and is offering them refuge - a safe shelter - in the United States.

The rules governing asylum are complicated. But the basics are this: if you have a well-founded fear of being seriously harmed in your country, and that harm would be motivated by one of five specific characteristics that you have, or which the people doing the harm believe you have, you may be eligible for asylum.

Those characteristics - referred to as the five “protected grounds” - are your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and something called membership in a particular social group.

For example, if you support the opposition political party in your country, and the security forces - who are propping up the political party in power in the country - keep harassing you and threaten to kill you if you don’t switch to their party, the feared harm may be considered to be “on account of” (i.e., motivated by) your political opinion.

That’s just one example. You don’t have to be into politics to get asylum. Showing the U.S. government that the harm you fear would, if it occurred, be motivated by one of the five protected grounds is something an asylum lawyer can help you with.

To get asylum, you have to show that the people who want to harm you are either the government or someone the government is unable or unwilling to control. If the people you fear aren’t with the government, you have to demonstrate that you couldn’t be safe if you just moved somewhere else in your country, or at least that it would be unreasonable to expect you to do so.

To be eligible for asylum, a person normally needs to apply for it during their first year in the United States. But there are exceptions to that rule. Sometimes people who have been in America for many years can still get asylum.

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